by T-Ann Pierce, volunteer

There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, Caddy Shack, when the entrance of a beautiful woman tames the entire rowdy, rambunctious crowd of caddies. In her presence, the raunchy behavior transforms immediately into that of an elegantly choreographed synchronized swim team. That is what screening was like at the Chicago Bears PNC Center at Halas Hall, July 29.

One hundred and thirty five football players from four area high schools bumped and jostled each other on their way into the PNC Center at Halas Hall. Once inside, these big, burley, noisy football players were hushed, enchanted not only by magnificent glass and steel entranceway, but also to be standing in the Chicago Bears’ hallowed halls. Mary Beth did her best to explain the EKG process to the players, but all eyes, with childlike wonder, were scanning the ultra modern structure. Pure magic.

Our typical screening days do not involve George McCaskey, the chairman of the Chicago Bears, chatting with our volunteers and students. Our typical screening days do not normally involve TV studios, press rooms and interactive panels. Though the kids came for free EKGs, without a doubt, they left with memories they will treasure a lifetime.

One of the highlights of the experience for both our volunteers and the students was the time spent in the Chicago Bears Press Room. Every player, coach and volunteer had an opportunity to sit in the hot seat behind the official press room desk. What a perfect photo op! All bets were off when teammates launched into mock Question and Answer time. From the press seats, fellow teammates grilled those players behind the desk. Questions ranged from stats, college plans and the 2015 season, to clearing up rumors of dubious behavior and questions regarding girlfriends. Talk about high energy! These kids kept us in fits of laughter all morning.

Peppered throughout the day were heartwarming moments. One group of students ran their hands along the pristine walls of the men’s bathrooms and played with the automated faucets, having never seen such a clean and well-appointed bathroom. There were interactions between coaches and players that were so tender, raw and hopeful it left a lump in my throat. The respect given to the few special needs players who spoke at the ‘press conference’ was touching.

The screening was made perfect by the donation of delicious boxed lunches provided by the Vernon Hills Chick-Fil-A.

We’d like to thank the Chicago Bears for giving us the opportunity to use the PNC Center at Halas Hall to provide free EKGs to 134 boys and 1 very spunky, no-nonsense girl. Of those tested, 9 received free echocardiograms. Two students will need to follow up with a cardiologist, but none of the players were restricted from practice. We look forward to continuing this successful partnership with the Chicago Bears in the future.


Carmel HS coaches and team photographer and videographer, Jack get a moment in the spotlight, too. Jacob said, ‘Getting an EKG was weird at first, but it was a cool experience. I’m 100% excited and blessed to know the results.’

Dr Shortal, Mary Beth Schewitz, our founder, Nancy Bartell and Kelli Pesola from Chick-fil-A who proudly donated the lunch today at Halas Hall and they also generously donate to the Maxtravaganza our annual fundraiser.

This girl has spunk! Though our only female football player was given the royal treatment during her EKG screening to ensure privacy, make no mistake about it, Ashley is every bit a teammate to the Zion-Benton football team.

Players pass by the Bears PNC studios on the way to receive their EKGs.

Quote from Carmel high school player Sean Foster: ” I am glad to have an EKG. I’d rather know now if there is something wrong with my heart.”

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