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Tillman supports heart organization's global mission
April 4th, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyBears cornerback Charles Tillman recently taped a public service announcement to support the International Children’s Heart Foundation and raise awareness for congenital heart disease.

Since being founded in Tennessee in 1993, the ICHF has performed 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.

Tillman taped the PSA alongside ICHF Founder Dr. William Novick, who continues to travel to all corners of the globe to perform pediatric cardiac surgeries.

“There’s no place he won’t go to do a surgery and save a life,” Tillman said. “He has a family of his own, but he sacrifices so much so that he can save lives and perform surgeries on these kids in third world countries. He goes to some pretty hostile areas to perform surgeries, like Libya, Iraq and Vietnam. He goes to places that most people don’t want to go to and performs these surgeries.” 

In the PSA, Tillman and Dr. Novick discuss congenital heart defects and the ICHF’s global mission while the Bears cornerback repeatedly punches a football out of the doctor’s hands. A two-time Pro Bowler, Tillman is known for his unique ability to force fumbles by smacking the ball away from opponents.

“Having Charles Tillman give his time to our cause to make this PSA was priceless,” Dr. Novick said via email while on a trip to perform surgeries in Macedonia. “We know that Charles is a respected person in the Chicago area and in the NFL, so having someone of that stature make this kind of statement tells other people how important an issue this is. What can be more valuable than that? Simply put, we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”

Dr. Novick had a great time working with Tillman on the PSA.

“Down-to-earth is how I would describe him,” Dr. Novick said. “He was easy to work with, humorous, professional and thoughtful. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him.

“Charles is a normal person in a very high profile profession, but he has not let it get to him. He is likable, loves his family and is passionate about helping others less fortunate than himself.”

Tillman and his wife, Jackie, 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.

“He and Jackie know how lucky they were to live where they do so that they could get world-class pediatric heart care for their daughter,” Dr. Novick said. “Jackie made two trips with us to Brazil and she has seen what we can do for a few really lucky children, so this issue is extremely important to them both.”

According to the ICHF, 1 in 100 children are born with heart disease, making it the most common birth defect. Many of those issues can be repaired with one surgery, but some require multiple procedures. The United States and other developed countries throughout the world have hundreds of medical centers with trained specialists to care for children with heart disease.

But that’s not the case in developing nations. As a result, the ICHF tries to help as many children as possible by sending volunteer medical teams on 30-35 two-to-three week trips each year. 

The organization also ships medications, surgical supplies and diagnostic equipment to medical facilities in those developing countries while also training surgeons and medical staff so that they can eventually provide quality health care for their own people.