For Black History Month, NewsOne honors GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OF OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE.
Charles “Peanut” Tillman
Place of Residence: Chicago
Why He’s a Game Changer: After his daughter Tiana underwent a life-saving heart transplant, Tillman started the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation to focus on helping children and families in need.
As a two-time All-Pro cornerback for the Chicago Bears, Tillman is a beast on the field. If he’s not performing his signature move of punching the football from the hands of opposing players, he’s intercepting passes and running them back for touchdowns. Since entering the NFL in 2003 he’s the only player with 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles.
But for all his skill on the field, Tillman felt powerless when told of his daughter’s dire situation in 2008.
“The doctor pulled me to the side and said your daughter is really sick. I don’t know if you know this but she may not make it through the night,” said Tillman. “To have someone say that about your child its probably the most hurtful thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Tiana was placed on the organ transplant list and was able to receive a new heart. Today she is healthy and doing well. Tillman is grateful and uses his foundation to help families and children who might find themselves in a similar situation.
Through his foundation, Tillman entertains critically ill children at Bears games and other trips. The foundation sets up childcare for the stressed out parents of children so they can get a break. The foundation also hosts fundraisers and uses the money to pay for social workers at the Children’s Hospital of Chicago who are dedicated to helping the families of sick children.
One mother, Jennifer White, had a child with a traumatic brain injury. She was studying for a new career and was able to spend more time at the hospital with her son because of a locker set up by Tillman’s foundation which contained a laptop.
“I said I have school, but I don’t really want to leave my son’s side,” said White. “I was able to still do my homework, still participate in the lessons but still be there for my child.”
The Cornerstone Foundation has raised $1 million and estimates that it has impacted one million Chicago area residents. Tillman’s philanthropic efforts have earned him national recognition.
On Saturday, Feb 1., Tillman was awarded the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. He will be honored during a special ceremony at Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday.
“I’m grateful to be the recipient of such a prestigious award,” Tillman said. “Walter Payton’s legacy continues to be a beacon of service and giving, and I’m just trying to do my small part. I don’t think any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition, but we do it because we are passionate about helping others.”
For Tillman, giving back to others is the least he can do after someone’s gift of life gave him his daughter back.
“Her second chance at life has given me a new meaning of life,” said Tillman.