About 500 of Charles Tillman’s closest friends gathered at Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports Thursday night in Rosemont to raise money for his Cornerstone Foundation.
The third annual Charles Tillman Celebrity Pro BOWLer Tournament featured 14 lanes of bowling with celebrities as well as the chance to watch the festivities and enjoy unlimited food for just $25.
“I really appreciate everyone’s support,” said Tillman, who’s entering his 12th season as a cornerback with the Chicago Bears. “Hopefully they come out and have a good time and hopefully they come out to future events and support them as well.”
Current and former Bears who bowled, signed autographs and posed for photos included Rashied Davis, Isaiah Frey, Kelvin Hayden, Lamarr Houston, Demontre Hurst, Tim Jennings, Johnny Knox, Shea McClellin, Ray McElroy, Jim McMahon, Sherrick McManis, Craig Steltz and C.J. Wilson.
Tillman’s previous two bowling tournaments raised more than $320,000 for the Cornerstone Foundation, which provides opportunities and resources for children and their families in need.
Since Tillman and his wife Jackie created the charitable organization in 2005, they have impacted over one million Chicago-area children and raised over $1 million. The programs that will benefit from the funds generated Thursday night include “Charles’ Locker,” “Field of Dreams,” “Holiday Celebration,” “TendHER Heart Luncheon” and “The Tiana Fund.”
“Those of us in the public eye are given tremendous opportunities to make a difference to the larger community,” said Tillman, the reigning Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. “The [Celebrity Pro BOWLer Tournament] is fun for everyone involved and it’s great to have people coming together to benefit such special children.”
The host of the event for the third straight year, Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports is an expansive bowling, billiards, dining and cocktail venue that’s located in the MB Financial Park at Rosemont, a major new entertainment complex that is home to eight other restaurants and clubs.
“I’ve been pretty lucky and blessed with the support that I’ve received from Kings,” Tillman said.
Kings CEO Frank Stryjewski called the event “truly the highlight of the year for us.”
“Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports is grateful for the opportunity to work with Charles for the third consecutive year to help such a great cause,” Stryjewski said. “Not only is Charles a role model on the football field, he has a strong commitment to serving young people.”
One of the bowlers Thursday night was Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens, who praised Tillman’s work in the community.
“It’s awesome,” Stephens said. “That’s part of being a celebrity and I think that he fulfills every bit of his commitment and goes that next step beyond that. He’s a great guy, his family is great and this is a great event. It’s always sold out and it brings a lot of people to our community.”
The Cornerstone Foundation initially was created to provide children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But after Tillman’s three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, the mission was changed to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.
Tiana’s medical ordeal was a major reason that Jean Abejero attended Thursday night’s event.
“I’m a nurse and my good friend’s daughter has cardiac issues as well and had the same surgeon [as Tiana], so it’s sort of a personal reason why I like him—and I’m also a huge Bears fan,” said Abejero, who wore Tillman’s familiar No. 33 jersey to the bowling tournament.
“I love that he cares about the community. Especially when you play for the city of Chicago, to give back to the city means a lot. It inspires a lot of kids, and I love that."