The 2022 season is still three months away, but Soldier Field was packed with Bears players, coaches and fans on Saturday night.
After being canceled each of the past two years due to COVID-19, the annual Bears Care Gala has returned to the United Club.
Attendees included Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, president George H. McCaskey, general manager Ryan Poles, assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus and coordinators Luke Getsy (offensive), Alan Williams (defense) and Richard Hightower (special teams).
Current and former players who were on hand were Anthony Adams, Jerry Azumah, Khari Blasingame, Rashied Davis, Steve Edwards, Darrynton Evans, Gary Fencik, Justin Fields, Thomas Graham Jr., Ryan Griffin, Khalil Herbert, Teven Jenkins, Caleb Johnson , Jaylon Johnson, Cole Kmet, Zach Miller, Sam Mustipher, James O’Shaughnessy, Byron Pringle, Trevor Siemian, Mike Singletary, Khyiris Tonga and Cody Whitehair.
“I’m so happy they’re here,” Ms McCaskey said. “I know some of them have very personal reasons for being here and others have just joined our group. And I think the same is true for our Gala community, all of our new coaches.”
The Gala provides ongoing support for promising ongoing research in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer and funds new initiatives and clinical trials, many of which focus on addressing health inequities in cancer care. for women of color.
The black tie affair kicked off with the orange carpet hosted by Bears reporter Lauren Screeden and Adams at Dr Pepper Patio. A VIP party with special cocktails, on-pitch player tunnel experience, photo ops and more also took place at the Orange Carpet Reception. Jeff Joniak, voice of the Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM, hosted the gala and was joined by former Bears guard and current radio analyst Tom Thayer to lead the live auction.
Through the annual gala, Bears Care was able to award nearly $16 million in grants to Chicago-area research efforts focused on finding a cure for breast and ovarian cancer and improving treatment options for those currently battling these diseases.
With funds generated from this year’s event, Bears Care hopes to award nearly $700,000 to its research partners.
Joy Piccolo O’Connell, widow of the late Brian Piccolo, attended the gala, along with one of their three daughters, Traci. Brian Piccolo was a running back who died of embryonic cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at the age of 26 after playing four seasons with the Bears. Another of their three daughters, Kristi, was featured in the video of the evening.
Ahead of the video, three people who have died for reasons other than Covid since the gala was last held were acknowledged: former Bears president Michael McCaskey, former running back Gale Sayers and longtime Chicago sports reporter Jeannie Morris. A book written by Morris in 1971, “Brian Piccolo: A Short Season”, was given to all gala attendees.