It took Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings only three words to explain why he decided to volunteer at teammate Charles Tillman’s fifth annual Celebrity Waiter Night last month.
“It’s for Charles,” Jennings said while mingling with fans at the Montgomery Club in Chicago. “Anything that Charles has going on, it’s always for a good cause and we always have a great time, so you definitely have to be there to support it.”
In addition to Jennings, other current and former Bears players who served hors d’oeuvres, a four-course Gibson’s menu and fine wine included Anthony Adams, Jared Allen, Jerry Azumah, Alex Brown, Kyle Fuller, Patrick Mannelly, Shea McClellin, Ryan Mundy and D.J. Williams.
“It’s always good to get back out in the community and also to support your teammates,” said Mundy, who’s in his first year with the Bears after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Steelers and Giants. “Charles is a great guy and he does a lot for the community. I’m happy that I could come out here and help him accomplish what he’s trying to get done.”
The Celebrity Waiter Night is one of the most significant fundraising events for Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation. He created the organization 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 condition and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, the mission was changed to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.
Tillman’s generous work with the Cornerstone Foundation was a major factor in him earning the prestigious 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, the only league honor that recognizes a player’s community service as well as his playing excellence.
“I’m a firm believer that your life off the field reflects your life on the field and vice versa,” Mundy said. “Charles is an amazing player, but he’s also an amazing human being—and you saw that when he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.”
On the field, Mundy feels that Tillman has been a great resource to young teammates such as rookie defensive backs Kyle Fuller and Brock Vereen and first-year pro Demontre Hurst.
“To come into a situation where you’re able to learn from a consummate pro like Charles, it’s a great experience—not only for Kyle but guys like Brock, Demontre and all the younger guys we have in our room,” Mundy said. “It’s definitely been beneficial even for me as a seven-year vet. I still have a lot to learn and Charles has definitely been a great help.”
In addition to serving food and drinks to about 300 guests at this year’s Celebrity Waiter Night, Tillman and the other Bears players also signed autographs and posed for photos.
“Peanut is a good dude and I try to support everything my teammates do,” Allen said. “We all have causes and we all have an obligation to give back to the community that supports us.”
Allen is in his first year with the Bears after spending his first 10 NFL seasons with the Chiefs and Vikings. He knew about Tillman’s generosity long before coming to Chicago.
"Peanut's philanthropy is widespread throughout the league," Allen said. "He does a lot with the military as I do myself. When you really get to know your teammates on a personal level and see what really drive them and what tugs on their heart strings, it helps you become better friends. And to be a part of [the Celebrity Waiter Night], it's always a good thing."