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Tillman's Benefit to Fund Two Hospital Positions
October 10th, 2013

Those who attend Charles Tillman’s Celebrity Waiter Night Monday in Chicago will get a chance to mingle with Bears players and enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a four-course meal and fine wine. But the greatest beneficiaries of the night won’t be on hand at the Montgomery Club (500 W. Superior).

Funds raised at the Cornerstone Foundation’s fourth annual event will pay for two child life specialists for two years at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Child life specialists provide support to sick kids and their families who may have difficulties adjusting to or understanding a child’s illness and hospitalization.

“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety that comes along with being in the hospital, especially if you’re a young child,” said T.J. Johnson, major gifts officer at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation. “Child life specialists work with patients in a variety of different ways, whether it’s playing games, doing other activities or counseling them to understand why they’re there and how they can process the emotions that they’re feeling.”

No one knows more about the importance of the position than Deidre Goltz, a child life specialist for seven years who recently started working at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“One of the things that I like the most about my job is when I’m in a procedure with a kid who is not quite sure that they’re going to be able to make it through it and they’re getting scared,” Goltz said. “To be able to talk to them and help them cope by giving them something else to focus on, whether it’s blowing bubbles or working with an iPad, and then all of a sudden they realize that this big scary thing that they thought was really going to hurt is over. The sense of accomplishment on their faces is so amazing to me.”

One of the child life specialist positions that will be funded by the Celebrity Waiter Night will work exclusively in the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit, a state-of-the-art 36-bed unit that opened in June 2012 and is devoted to the care of young patients suffering from cardiac disease. The unit previously did not have its own child life specialist.

“I really can’t put into words how valuable it is,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have a dedicated position and now to have someone who can get to know these patients and be a familiar face for the families on that floor is so special and important that it really is a game-changer. The Tillmans’ support of the position is phenomenal because it’s serving such a huge need in the hospital.”

Charles and Jackie Tillman certainly can relate to what the families in the cardiac unit are going through. In 2008, their three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with a rare heart condition and received a life-saving heart transplant.

“Anytime a family has had an experience at the hospital and wants to do something to say thank you and give back and try to impact future patients and families that will come through our doors, we’re just incredibly grateful for their generosity,” Johnson said.

The Celebrity Waiter Night is the most significant fundraising event of the year for Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation. Last year’s benefit generated almost $200,000.

Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to provide children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But after Tiana’s medical ordeal, the foundation’s mission was changed to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.

Tickets for the Celebrity Waiter Night are available for $375 and include tax, gratuity, valet service and a Bears signature series football. The event will be limited to no more than 250 guests.

The event also features live and silent auctions, with Tillman serving as host, waiter, Master of Ceremonies and auctioneer.

For more information, contact Judi DiGioia with the Cornerstone Foundation at (859) 415-8233 or email


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Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation
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