With a torn triceps muscle, Charles Tillman won’t be able to play football for the rest of the season. But having a cast on his right arm didn’t prevent the Chicago Bears cornerback from doing something he’s just as passionate about Monday night.
Tillman hosted his fifth annual Celebrity Waiter Night at the Montgomery Club in Chicago. The event is traditionally one of the most significant fundraising events for his Cornerstone Foundation.
Tillman 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.
At Monday night’s event, Tillman joined current and former Bears teammates in serving hors d’oeuvres, a four-course Gibsons menu and fine wine. The celebrity waiters included Anthony Adams, Jared Allen, Jerry Azumah, Alex Brown, Kyle Fuller, Tim Jennings, Patrick Mannelly, Shea McClellin, Ryan Mundy and D.J. Williams.
In addition to serving the 300 or so guests, they also signed autographs and posed for photos.
“My teammates do an awesome job every year of coming out and supporting me,” Tillman said. “This is one of if not our biggest fundraising events that kind of really carries the Cornerstone Foundation for the year. The money raised here goes to families. We try to provide them the proper resources to help them get on their feet depending on the situation they’re dealing with.”
Last year’s Celebrity Waiter Night generated about $200,000.
“It’s been very gratifying,” Tillman said. “The first year was kind of like an experiment, not really knowing how it would do. But we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from all of our guests that have attended. It’s truly a blessing to have the support I have from the city, from Bears fans, from Charles Tillman fans as far as doing charitable work and my teammates for giving up their day off to come out and lend a helping hand.”
There are few events that Tillman likes to attend more than the Celebrity Waiter Night, which also included a live and silent auction.
“I get a chance to mingle with the fans and my teammates get to mingle,” he said. “We get to serve drinks. We get to serve food. I’m terrible at serving. But I have fun with it every year.”
Tillman told reporters that he would like to continue the Celebrity Waiter Night after his playing career is over. “We’ve been pretty successful and it’s been a pretty good five years for us, so hopefully in the years to come we can continue this tradition that we’ve started,” he said.
Tillman has been very active in the Chicago community since he was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. After growing up the son of an Army sergeant and living on bases in Kansas, California, Texas and Germany, he now considers the Windy City his home.
“Chicago has been great to me,” Tillman said. “Chicago has been great to my family. I got married here. I had all four kids here. I bought my first house here. I have a lot of firsts here. I’ve been here 12 years, the longest place I’ve ever lived. And the Bears organization has been more than gracious to me and my family. The city, the fans, this is home.”