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Fans happy to help fund holiday party
March 6th, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyBears fans who purchased Charles Tillman “Peanut Punch” t-shirts during the 2012 season did much more than just show their support for the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.

With Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation receiving a $5 donation for each t-shirt sold, fans generated about $10,000, which paid for the organization’s annual holiday party for dozens of sick kids and their families at Rush Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

Robert Olson of Wauconda purchased Peanut Punch t-shirts for himself, his wife and their son.

“I follow Charles Tillman on Twitter and right around Christmas he posted some pictures on Twitter from the party and I told my wife and son, ‘Hey, look, this is what our t-shirts [helped provide],’” Olson said. “It made me feel great. It was definitely a cool thing to know we helped out.

“I’ve always admired Tillman as a player and I thought the t-shirts were a great thing to buy because you’re not only supporting the player but you’re supporting what he stands for.”

The Peanut Punch t-shirts were designed and are being sold by the satirical website “The Heckler,” which volunteered to donate $5 from each shirt it sold to the Cornerstone Foundation.

The t-shirts celebrate Tillman’s incredibly unique knack to force fumbles. The Heckler’s managing editor and co-founder, George Ellis, was inspired to create the t-shirt after seeing Tillman twice punch the ball out of Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s hands Oct. 22 in a win over Detroit.

Bears fan Jeremy Byrd of Sunflower, Miss., received a Peanut Punch t-shirt from his wife.

“It was the last gift that I opened on Christmas,” Byrd said. “I told her I wanted one and showed her the [Heckler] website where she could get one. I also told her that $5 goes to charity, and that kind of sweetened the pot. My wife’s a very charitable person. She liked a football player actually giving back because she does get on athletes for some of the things they shouldn’t do.”

Byrd was happy to help foot the bill for the holiday party at Rush.

“That makes me feel wonderful,” he said. “That’s in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. Every kid should be able to be at home with their family on Christmas, but I understand that some can’t. That’s a very cool gesture on his part to think of those kids.”

Tillman and his wife Jackie hosted the party, passing out gifts while also posing for photos, playing games and making ornaments with the kids and their families. Given their own medical ordeal, Charles and Jackie certainly can empathize with parents of sick children.

Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to provide children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But after his three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with a rare heart disorder and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, he changed the foundation’s mission to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.

Tom Segal of Lansing purchased a Peanut Punch t-shirt after seeing Tillman tweet a picture of it.

“I thought it was kind of cool,” Segal said. “I heard about the Peanut Punch when they talk about it on TV and listening to a sports radio station. I knew some of the money went toward his foundation, so that definitely makes you feel good.”

In 2012, Tillman led the NFL with 10 forced fumbles, tied for the most in a single season since the NFL started tracking the statistic in 1991. In the process, he increased his career total to 39 forced fumbles, the most by any player since he entered the league in 2003.

“Guys are going into games knowing that he’s going to try to knock the ball out and the fact that he still pulls it off is amazing,” Olson said. “I think it’s ridiculous that he can still pull that off.”