Bears' wives go holiday shopping for needy families
As Andrea Hanie walked through the Sam's Club store in Vernon Hills on Thursday morning, she filled a large cart with clothes, toys and other merchandise.
But the items weren't for her friends or relatives.
Hanie, wife of Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie, was shopping for a single mother and five children she's never met.
Hanie and about a dozen other Bears wives were participating in an annual holiday shopping spree for needy families. The event was sponsored by Sam's Club, the Salvation Army and Off the Field, an association for football players' wives.
"It's very rewarding," said Hanie, who has participated the past four years. "It's nice to give back and help families in need."
The national event will benefit 200 families. The Vernon Hills shopping trip will provide gifts for 20 Chicago-area families.
The wives -- some wearing festive Santa hats, others in Bears gear to support their spouses -- were teamed with Sam's Club employees for the shopping excursion. Each duo was given a clipboard and a list reflecting the needs and wish-lists of a particular family.
"They break it down pretty easy," said Jackie Tillman, wife of cornerback Charles Tillman.
Tillman's first stop Thursday was a display of women's coats. It was a popular destination for the shoppers.
"The things that they need, like coats, are the biggest things (to get)," Tillman said.
As her running back husband, Matt, recuperates from a knee injury, Danielle Forte shopped for a family Thursday.
She was accompanied by Sam's Club claims associate Lauren Cecala. They got along famously.
"I'm a huge Bears fan, to be honest," Cecala said. "I absolutely love working with any of the athletes who come in here."
A pair of women's shoes and jeans, a sweater and a T-shirt for a man were among the items Forte and Cecala dropped in their cart.
The T-shirt sported the Bears logo.
"Once a Bear, always a Bear," Forte said.
Nationally, Sams' Club is donating $200,000 worth of merchandise for the gift drive. Additionally, each family will receive a $200 gift card for food at Sam's Club.