Cubs fans donate to Illinois tornado relief

By Hannah Beery

Lisa LaSala sat in the Kirkland Fire Department Tuesday, temporary home of the American Red Cross, and thought about the next steps for tornado relief in nearby Fairdale and Rochelle.

But cleaning up home base when putting back together a community torn apart by a tornado means more than brushing off the dirt. And this caused LaSala, executive director of the American Red Cross of Northwest, to ask for something that is hard to come by these days.

“A miracle,” she said.

Tuesday night, Cubs associates, business executives and players’ wives collected funds at the gates of Wrigley Field to aid in those displaced and in need after the deadly tornado.

Chicago Cub’s players’ wives stand guard and ask visitors for donations to aid in tornado relief. (Hannah Beery/Medill)

“Crane [Kenney] reached out and said ‘Hey guys, these are our fans, our neighbors and we’ve got to do something,’” said Connie Falcone, Vice President of Cubs Charities.

The EF4 tornado plowed through the two small rural towns 86 miles west of Wrigley Field last Thursday, with winds up to 200 mph, killing two women. LaSala described cleanup as “inspiring” and said residents have received a plethora of supplies. Now all they need are the funds to begin the rebuilding process.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

– Lisa LaSala, American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois

“I hope that if it would happen to me, then someone would help me and it’s always good to do what we can to help someone,” said Charlene Roland after she donated at Wrigley before the Cubs played the Reds Tuesday night.

Proceeds from the night will help rebuild over 100 structures in two small Illinois towns. (Hannah Beery/Medill)

The team’s collection showed that a neighbor’s reach goes far beyond the house, or even the town, next door.

“It’s about community, and Cubs fans are so passionate,” said Falcone. “They’re passionate about what happens on the field, but they’re really passionate about people that need a helping hand.”

Chicago resident Donna Nordmeyer smiled as she put her check into a donation bucket prior to entering the stadium.

“It’s phenomenal. It’s so important …” she said. “They need the cash to get things going because all those people are displaced. They need it, they need it.”

“Crane [Kenney] reached out and said ‘Hey guys, these are our fans, our neighbors and we’ve got to do something,’”

– Connie Falcone, Chicago Cubs

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a Cubs Charities partner, matched 50 percent of all donations collected to the Illinois Tornado Relief Effort. Proceeds from the team’s 50/50 raffle, which normally go toward Cubs Charities, also went to the fund.

Across town, the White Sox are also giving fans a chance to donate to r Fri., April 17. Chicago White Sox Charities will donate the proceeds from the “Sox Split” 50/50 raffle and the in-game auction to the Illinois Tornado Relief Effort.

LaSala began to tear up when she talked about the assistance the two tragedy-stricken towns have received from surrounding communities.

“We set up a shelter Friday for housing if people need a place to stay and only three people stayed in the house because everyone else stayed in neighbors’ and families’ houses,” she said. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Cubs fan Tim O’Brien did not mind being one of those neighbors on Tuesday night.

“I should give to more things,” he said after donating at Wrigley. “Especially because a lot of people have it worse off. This was accessible.”

Cubs Charities will continue to collect donations online through Sun., April 19. Donations can also be made directly to the American Red Cross.

Photo at top: Volunteers to collect donations stood inside and outside of Wrigley Field Tuesday night. (Hannah Beery/Medill)