Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bear's Rookie Community Relations Event

About two weeks before Christmas I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend a Rookie Community Relations Event for our Bears Outreach Program, along with the rest of our rookie class. The event was an Annual Holiday Party hosted by the Chicago Bears along with United Airlines in the United Club at Soldier Field.

There I would bump into 14-year-old Anthony Granberry and his mom Tonya while being escorted to the restroom on a break from entertaining the other hundreds of kids who were in attendance. Ms. Granberry, or “Ms. Tonya”, asked if I could sign a few things for her and her son. I quickly accepted the invitation to sign a few items for what seemed to be the most excited kid in the whole building. I don’t know exactly why Anthony and his mom grabbed my attention, but he seemed to have that same sparkle in his eye that see in my younger brother Jared. I would soon find out, like my younger brother, Anthony was way more special than your average kid.

Anthony came into this world weighing only 2½ pounds and about 8 weeks too early, spending his first 3 months of life in the hospital. At the age of 7 he would be diagnosed with epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures or episodes of disturbed brain activity that causes changes in both attention and behavior. Numerous seizure encounters would ultimately lead young Anthony to brain surgery in March of 2010. With this upcoming March making two full years since his surgery, Anthony continues to suffer from the symptoms of epilepsy.

And to think that you or I would’ve never heard Anthony’s story if not for a recent trip to the Southside of Chicago to visit Anthony and his family on Christmas Eve. Anthony’s family reminded me of my own from the moment I walked through the door with brothers, sisters, cousins, in attendance for our own little concert. Anthony stood in excitement waiting for me to make my way over to him with the same look on his face that he had the very first time we met at soldier field, which was exactly why I came. I handed over some signed apparel and a Best Buy gift card as an early Christmas gift from one friend to another. I hung around for as long as possible before having to hop on the road to see my own family in Morgantown, I promised Ms. Tonya that this wouldn’t be my last time visiting my new buddy! I wasn’t two blocks away before Ms. Tonya sent me a picture of Anthony and his favorite football player.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Joslyn Levell Goes To 8th grade dance with NFL Draftee JT. Thomas of the Chicago Bears

Joslyn Levell longed for a dance partner.

Yet no one would accommodate, until Bears sixth-round pick J.T. Thomas -- an outside linebacker from West Virginia University -- stepped in after a chance meeting. Thomas asked Levell out for the date of a lifetime Friday night at the Suncrest Middle School prom in Morgantown, W.V.

An engaging 14-year old who listens mostly to pop music, but extols the verbal ferocity of rappers Lil Wayne, Drake and her favorite, Eminem, Levell seems like most teenage girls obsessing in Twilight, the latest gossip and fads.

[+] EnlargeJT Thomas
Courtesy of Rochelle ThomasBears draft pick J.T. Thomas took Joslyn Levell, who has spina bifida, to her junior high prom on Friday night.
However, she's anything but average. She knows it. She owns it.

"She's a cool little girl," Thomas says.

But unlike most little girls, Levell also has spina bifida, a birth defect which occurs -- according to the Spina Bifida Association of America -- in seven of every 10,000 births in the United States, and confines her to a wheelchair.

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