By Charles Tillman
As soon as I signed with the Panthers in April, I thought, “How will these guys receive me? Will I fit in?”
I got to tell you, our team is special. I’m not surprised that we’ve done as well as we have because of the type of men we have on our team.
If I make a mistake, I feel bad that I let Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis down. And the relationship from player to player, coach to player, player to coach. We have DB dinners, and the coaches are invited. We love hanging out with each other. You have to have chemistry in order to develop trust.
With us hanging out so much and building that bond, I don't think you’ll find another team like the 2015 Carolina Panther team. Everything has fallen into place.
I don't know why they wanted me, but I’m so thankful that I wanted to come here and they wanted me to come here.
So I wasn’t surprised when 15 teammates and coach Ron Rivera came to support our Cornerstone Foundation benefit to launch The Tiana Fund at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
I was like, “Wow. They do like me!”
But I was also struck by the amount of love that we received from the community.
I mean, it’s my family’s first year in Charlotte. I knew we wanted to do something in the community, but we didn’t think we’d have this much support. People were very giving of their time and donations.
I was just amazed. It was Southern hospitality in every way.
Jackie emailed a few wineries in the area, and one lady replied back. “You know what,” she wrote, “I get a lot of these requests, and I say no to a lot of them. But I felt compelled to get back to you and donate wine for your dinner.”
It was a blessing.
There’s a restaurant called Pasta Provisions. It’s packed all the time, and we eat there a lot. They get approached all the time, but we asked them for a t-shirt or something.
They provided a basket of different gifts.
People and companies that get overwhelmed with opportunities said yes to us. Why? I cannot tell you. But I’m just thankful because it blesses our foundation.
We had 60 auction items, including a lot related to NASCAR – and I know nothing about NASCAR.
Even with my injury, the amount of support from Panther nation has been amazing. I’m actually taken aback by it. I mean, I’ve only been here a year. It’s a great feeling. These fans are die-hards, and they love their players, and the community.
They’re all in.
At our event, I don’t think a lot of people knew my story or about our foundation. We showed a video about Tiana. A lot of people were like, “Wow. That’s crazy.”
Afterwards, I spoke about what we had to deal with. I talked about our donor.
I said, “Stop what you’re doing and think about your child living because another child died.”
It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
I wanted them to really feel how touched and how selfless the donor family was for us.
The thing I try to get across is, someone served me, and I’m trying to serve others. And let’s try to keep that cycle of giving going.
We know how hard it is when your child is at the hospital for a long time. Families go through the worst time possible.
And it’s not just at the hospital, it’s at home.
Thanks to your support, our first event in Charlotte was a huge success, and we’ll be able to bless a lot of families at the Levine Hospital.