When you are a high school athlete, you’re always told that the skills you pick up on the court or field will help you later in life. Sportsmanship is something that develops naturally when you and your fellow players are working as a team to get that ball over the net, through the hoop or executing a basket toss that sends the smallest girl on your cheerleading squad flying high in the air. Athletics take trust, cooperation and focus – and a lot of character.
For all the time I spent in organized athletics, today sports are something that I more-or-less consume as entertainment – at home on the couch or, if I manage to plan a little bit in advance, in the stands at the United Center or Wrigley. Sometimes I forget that, for the star athletes among us in this great city, sports are more than just a high-profile paycheck. They’re a common denominator. A conversation starter. And source of tremendous hope to all.
Through my work for HC client Ronald McDonald House Charities, I’m constantly reminded that the professional athletes of the Windy City’s teams are not just red, blue and black jerseys and sports column fodder. They’re fathers and mothers, and philanthropists and activists, and making a real difference matters deeply to them. Despite the fact that they’re constantly shuttling across the country and city, recovering from injury, taking care of their families, and dealing with the extraordinary pressures of over-enthused fans and critical reporters, they honestly make it a priority to give back.
There’s something about picturing a child in the hospital that doesn’t sit well with most people. Babies, toddlers and kids should be playing and smiling, not attached to monitors and ventilators. Not prepping for surgery. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana serves these children by serving their families – giving them a comfortable, clean, safe and free place to sleep, rest and shower, minutes from their hospitalized child.
The past two weeks have brought some phenomenal athletes into the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s, to spend quality time with these families: Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed of the Chicago Bulls and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. The energy that their presences brought to the families staying at the House was contagious, and their kindness and empathy shone brilliantly through their gentle, egoless manners.
Athletes are put on a pedestal so often for the records they break, plays that they make and championship rings that they wear. On behalf of RMHC-CNI, and as a mommy myself, I’d like to say a big thank you to the stars among us who create hope and happiness in the hearts of families that need those things more than anything else.