Fundraising for Athletes Across Borders

By JeffGraveline

For former Chicago Bear All-Pro Jerry Azumah and current Chicago Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas, giving back to the Chicago community is one of their top priorities. In an effort to give back to a city that has given them so much,  Azumah and Thomas hosted Athletes Across Borders,  a fundraiser for San Miguel Schools in Chicago

on Oct. 28.

All of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go to San Miguel Schools, which have two locations,  819 N. Leamington Ave. and 1949 W. 48th St. The event was held at The Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash Ave., on Chicago’s South Side. The fundraiser included a raffle, cocktails and performances by Spare Parts, DJ Timbuck2 and Laura Izibar.

When asked earlier why he wanted to give back to the city of Chicago, Thomas replied, “Chicago’s been so great to me and right now its so evident.  It just feels so good to have all this support right now.”

Azumah and Thomas chose San Miguel Schools because of Azumah’s connection with them from his playing days with

the Bears.

“It was a natural fit, I knew a lot about [San Miguel Schools’] history, a lot about what they were about and about what they represent,” Azumah said. “It really fed into my passion about what I wanted to do, as far as giving back.”

The event was emceed by RAW TV’s Diva Squad and CBS’ Ryan Baker, who kept the night moving with jokes and banter with the athletes before getting serious about the reason everyone was there.

“What I like about our local athletes, they embrace the community and they become a part of that,” Baker said. “This is great, the diversity of the crowd, it’s about becoming a part of the community and doing your part. I think that’s wonderful, what they [athletes] give to us, not just on the field and on the court, but in the community as well.”

Azumah originally got involved with charity work when he started the Azumah Student Assistance Program.

Born and raised in Worcester, Mass., Azumah received support from a donor in high school which allowed him to continue his education and athletic development.

That donation from that supporter early in his life inspired Azumah to give back in his own way with the Azumah Student Assistance Program.

“[The fundraiser turnout is] awesome, it’s really, really wonderful—the fact that people are coming out to support, to spread awareness,” Azumah said. “It’s all about everybody coming together for a common goal. What I believe in is the same thing Tyrus believes in, it’s the same thing a lot of these people in this room believe in. So, it’s all about getting people who believe in and support the cause.”

The Azumah Student Assistance Program is designed to give scholarships to disadvantaged students in Massachusetts, Illinois and beyond according to the foundation’s Web site.

The other host for the event was Chicago Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas, who started Tyrus Thomas Inc. in 2008. Tyrus Thomas Inc. funds the youth retention program Caring and Actively Teaching Children Hope.

The program is designed to help at-risk students entering ninth grade in Chicago and Baton Rouge, La.,

Thomas’ hometown.

“I was one of those at-risk youths and just to be able to give back means a lot,” Thomas said.

During the fundraiser a raffle was held with several prizes, including a pair of Lebron James’ shoes, tickets to The Oprah Winfrey Show, a Bulls ticket package which included floor access with Thomas and a Bears ticket package with field access and a shadow experience with Azumah during his post game show at Comcast SportsNet.

Azumah and Thomas have other events planned to help raise additional funds for other Chicago Public Schools later this year and in early 2010, including Azumah’s annual poker tournament and Thomas’ adoption of Crane High School to begin a mentoring program.