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Bears cornerback Charles Tillman honored by Illinois Fatherhood Initiative
June 24th, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyBears cornerback Charles Tillman was recently honored at the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative’s Celebration of Fatherhood Dinner at the Union League Club of Chicago. 

Tillman and his wife, Jackie, have four children. In addition, they’ve impacted the lives of over one million kids in the Chicago area since creating the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation in 2005. The charitable organization provides opportunities and resources to critically and chronically ill children and their families who are in need. 

The Illinois Fatherhood Initiative is the country’s first state-wide non-profit fatherhood organization. The IFI’s mission is connecting children and fathers by promoting responsible fathering and helping to equip men to become better fathers and father figures. It coordinates programs in schools, hospitals and workplaces throughout Illinois. 

Tillman was nominated for the IFI award by three members of the Bears family: return specialist Devin Hester, former tight end Desmond Clark and senior director of special projects Patrick McCaskey, all of whom have been previously honored by the IFI.

“[Tillman being recognized at the Fatherhood Dinner] has to do more with his character than his celebrity as it relates to his athletic prowess and the commitment he’s made not only to his family but to the community through the Cornerstone Foundation,” said IFI founder David Hirsch. “Charles is an example that we want to hold up as a role model for what great dads are all about.” 

Hirsch created the IFI in 1997 to address the increasing problem of absentee fathers in society. The organization was founded with the belief that every child deserves to grow up in a home with a loving, caring and involved father or father figure. 

According to the IFI website, about 24 million children in the United States—including 1.1 million in Illinois—are growing up in homes without their fathers, and children from fatherless homes are more likely to commit suicide, run away, have behavioral disorders, commit rape, drop out of high school, abuse chemical substances and end up in prison.

Hirsch, who is the father of five children, presented Tillman with a “Great Dads” coin at the Fatherhood Dinner. The coins, which are sold by the IFI for $15, show an image of the American flag and read: “Great dads are present physically, emotionally and spiritually.” 

“It’s a tool we created to help recognize dads and solidify the bonds between children and fathers,” Hirsch said. “The coins serve as a daily reminder about the important relationship a dad shares with his kids. I carry mine 24/7, and there are thousands of guys who have received this coin and I’m confident think of it as a treasured keepsake.” 

Prior to the IFI dinner, Hirsch spoke with Dr. William Novick, who created the International Children’s Heart Foundation in 1993 and recently taped a public service announcement with Tillman to raise awareness for congenital heart disease. 

Novick travels to all corners of the globe to perform pediatric cardiac surgeries. The ICHF has done more than 6,200 free surgeries on children with heart defects in developing countries throughout the world, including in Europe, Central America, Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. 

Charles and Jackie Tillman have been supporters of the ICHF since 2008 when their young daughter, Tiana, received a life-saving heart transplant at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“Dr. Novick is an amazing guy,” Hirsch said. “If that’s any testimony to the work that Charles is doing, that really resonated with me. He seems to have surrounded himself with some pretty high-caliber people, and that’s another way to size somebody up. Are they pillars of the community; leaders, people who are well-respected, people who bring something to the table?” 

A volunteer for the IFI, Hirsch works full time as a philanthropy advisor. In that position, he assists more than 100 people who give back to the community, including athletes and entertainers. 

Said Hirsch: “What I’m looking for are people who are really committed to the work that they’re doing, not just in name but by word and that’s my sense with Charles, that he is committed to this work that he’s doing with the Cornerstone Foundation and he’s willing to give of his time by making appearances as opposed to just lending his name.” 

Click here for a video from Charles at the banquet.