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Tillman a finalist for Byron "Whizzer" White Award
January 23rd, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyThanks to the charity work he does through his Cornerstone Foundation, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has been selected as one of five finalists for the NFL Players Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year Award.

The prestigious award is the highest honor the NFLPA can bestow on a player. The other finalists are Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, Browns tight end Benjamin Watson and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

During annual NFLPA locker room meetings throughout the league, players selected teammates to receive PULSE Awards for their outstanding work in the community. “PULSE” is an acronym that stands for performance, union, leadership, service and excellence.

All PULSE winners received monetary donations for their foundations or a charity of their choice and were eligible for the Byron “Whizzer” White Award. 

The award was established by the professional football players of America to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to one of their own, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron Raymond “Whizzer” White, a scholar, athlete, patriot, humanitarian and public servant.

The five finalists, who were selected from a pool of 72 PULSE recipients, all receive additional charity donations. The winner of the Byron “Whizzer” White Award will get an additional $100,000. The judging panel includes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Brian Waters of Pro Player Insiders.

The winner will be announced at the NFLPA’s State of the Union press conference at the Super Bowl media center in New Orleans.

An All-American halfback at the University of Colorado, White (1917-2002) had a brief but very successful NFL career. He was named All Pro in all three of his seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1938) and Detroit Lions (1940-41), leading the league in rushing in 1938 and 1940.

White’s pro football career was interrupted when he joined the Navy during World War II. When the war ended, he opted to attend law school rather than return to the NFL. White eventually served on the Supreme Court from 1962 until his retirement in 1993.

Since Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005, the organization has impacted over one million Chicago-area children and raised more than $1 million.

The charity began by providing children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But in 2008, Tillman’s three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to weaken and enlarge.

Tiana received a life-saving heart transplant and is now healthy and active. Consequently, the Cornerstone Foundation changed its mission to improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children throughout the Chicago area by providing support and life-changing experiences.

The Cornerstone Foundation’s programs include “Charles’ Locker,” “Field of Dreams,” “Holiday Celebration,” “TendHER Heart Luncheon” and “The Tiana Fund.”

“Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation continues to benefit children and their families,” said Jason Belser, the NFLPA’s senior director of player services and development. “The foundation’s five signature events and initiatives provide chronically and critically ill children opportunities to fulfill their dreams and desires. The NFLPA is honored Charles is a union member.”

“Charles’ Locker” provides children and their families with access to iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable PlayStation game systems and other electronic handheld games to pass the time during recovery and treatment. There are currently five lockers in Chicago-area hospitals that benefit over 290,000 patients on an annual basis.

“Field of Dreams” provides magical memories to chronically and critically ill children and their families by fulfilling sports-related wishes and vacation dreams.

The “Holiday Celebration” takes place each December when Tillman and his wife Jackie visit a local hospital to pass out gifts, visit with families and partake in activities to help spread holiday cheer.

The “TendHER Heart Luncheon” annually honors mothers of chronically and critically ill children for the sacrifices they make in caring for their sick kids.

“The Tiana Fund” provides assistance to economically at-risk families. The support is intended to strengthen their ability to care for themselves, enhance their stability and security, and improve their quality of life or their ability to contribute to the community. In 2012, the Tiana Fund assisted over 50 families with their bills.