Eight-year-old Kendall Larry poses with Chicago Bears mascot Staley Da Bear and former Bears player Jim Thornton as the Chicago Bears visited sick children on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn through their "Bear Hugs" program. | Terrance Peacock~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 25, 2014 3:54PM
Pediatric patients at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn had a big reason to smile Tuesday as members of the Chicago Bears organization visited each room to spread cheer among the sick children.
Bears Chairman George McCaskey and former Bears tight end Jim Thornton, along with the Bears mascot, Staley, visited the children and their family members, took pictures with the kids and passed out teddy bears to help lift the children’s spirits during their hospital stay.
The visit was part of the Bears’ Bear Hugs program. Caroline Schrenker, the team’s director of community relations, Bears players and officials visit a different children’s hospital every month through the program. Last year, they handed out more than 600 teddy bears to sick youngsters.
Schrenker said the Bear Hugs program has come to Advocate Children’s Hospital about 10 times.
On Tuesday, McCaskey passed out teddy bears to the children while Staley goofed around and put a smile on their faces. McCaskey said Staley plays the biggest role in brightening the day for the kids.
“Staley’s the star of the show, and the rest of us are just bit players. ... We’re trying to help him out and make some patients forget about their troubles for a few minutes,” he said.
Eight-year-old Kendall Larry, of Chicago, said he thought Staley was funny and made him laugh.
“He was scratching his butt,” Kendall said.
Catherine Williams, Kendall’s mother, said what the Bears did for the children was great for their spirits.
“It’s a great way to cheer them up,” she said. “They could be in here and be a little depressed, so it was a good cheer-up moment and Kendall likes the Bears.”
Not every sick youngster interacted with Staley but those who did seemed to enjoy the visit, and that’s all that matters, McCaskey said.
“Sometimes it doesn’t go so well, but sometimes you can see a real connection between Staley and the kids,” he said. “It’s very rewarding and gratifying and humbling to see.”