Present for the event were of course, Paul and Jennifer Konerko, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Both Paul and Charlie recounted their favorite times with Jim and told fantastic stories of working with him.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Thome: Hard Work, Professionalism, Class, Perspective, Unselfishness.
My Son, Adler, and I on his first birthday
I used to tell everyone when I was younger that if I ever got to meet Jim Thome, I would cry my eyes out.
People thought I was exaggerating.
In the summer of 2007 I did meet him. Walking into a local restaurant I saw him and actually DID start crying. "What's wrong?" he asked me. "Im wearing your shirt," I sniffed out in between tears. He promptly signed my "Thome" shirt that I had been wearing after softball practice, talked to me for a good 5 minutes and was genuinely intrigued by my love for the game. I told him about how I grew up watching him, and that he had been one of my favorite players since he was with the Tribe, even thought my family were all Sox fans. He smiled, took a picture with me and was genuinely the nicest guy I'd ever met.
I've met Jim a few times since then, and every time he's been just as nice. Up until he left the Sox when people asked me who my favorite player on the team was I would reply "right now, or of all time?" Jim Thome was my "right now," (even though Paul Konerko ribbed me jokingly when I told him on Saturday that my favorite player was now AJ Pierzynski) and Buck Weaver, of course, was my "all time."
This last Saturday at the Joyce Thome Benefit for The Children's Hospital of Illinois, Jim was no different. When my friend and WhiteSox.com beat writer Scott Merkin introduced me to Jim as "this is my friend Melissa, I think you've met before," he smiled and gave me a resounding "Oh yeah! Hi!" as if I was an old friend he hadn't seen for a while. What stuck me the most though during the encounter was the time I spent with Andrea Thome, Jim's equally kind wife.
I immediately told her what a fan I was of her charity. By "her" charity I actually mean the Konerko/Thome charity that both husbands and wives work with. I had recently heard of it this summer through an interview Andrea had done on 670 The Score, and thought it was amazing. As a single mother, I am lucky to have the support system that I do. However, there are many people out there who are left to raise children without that support system, or are forced to put them into foster homes. The Children's Home + Aid Society of Illinois is an organization designed to help those foster children.
Not only is this a great organization that the Thome and Konerko's help out with, but it an old one that has pioneered the fostering idea throughout its almost 150 years in existence. The Children's Home + Aid Society of Illinois, founded in 1883, helps more than 40,000 children and families in need a year. According to it's website, it has 70 social service programs throughout 40 Illinois Counties.
This organization is not a small one, it helps with not only foster children, but has pioneered movements in HIV aid and treating, psychological misfortunes in foster children, teen pregnancy, mentoring, enrichment for mothers, and provides such services as Head Start and Early Start in many locations.
Jennifer Konerko, equally beautiful and kind wife of Chicago White Sox 1st baseman, Paul Konerko, came from a family who has adopted quite a few foster children. Both wives have been working for 3 years with the organization and do things such as back-to-school shopping with some of the foster kids. They also head up the White Sox Bring Me Home campaign with Paul and Jim.
This campaign gives the two families a way to really reach out to a lot of Southside fans by sponsoring ways to donate to the cause. Fans can either donate directly and get a chance to win box seats at games, meet and greets, etc, or can even do a "per home run" donation with the same benefits. Even a dollar/home run is a significant contribution to a great cause. However you might want to watch before you donate, both of these men are not unknown for their power at the plate! :)
To donate to this amazing cause, please visit Children's Home + Aid Society . To visit the specific White Sox "Bring Me Home" campaign for official information, please visit this link
As you all know, the entire point of my blog is to increase awareness for Buck Weaver. This campaign is another cause that not many people around this area know about. What Jim, Andrea, Jennifer and Paul do is a testament to the amazing players and people they are both on and off the field. Instead of just donating a large sum of money to an organization, these couples go out of their way to donate time, charity, and love to children who may not have it. You don't have to become a foster parent in order to help out foster kids. Money donated goes to clothes, food, books, school supplies, and resources for the Children's Home + Aid Society.
Another great testament to the large hearts of the Thome's is the Children's Hospital of Illinois benefit that Jim has been hosting for the last 15 years. This charity has helped raise over $2 million for the Children's Hospital.
This year the charity included a large silent auction, as well as an entertaining live auction. Included in the live auction were a trip to Prague and Paris (donated by Jim and Andrea Thome), a meet and greet with Paul Konerko and tickets to a Sox game, a trip to Dallas, Texas for a NASCAR event, and many others.
"Man, Thome was so green when I was coaching him" remembered Manuel, "I used to think to myself 'He's so green I could stick him in the ground and he would grow'"
Paul gave a fun and entertaining 15 minute speech including the "5 Best things about Jim Thome" (also the title to my blog). He spent the last few minutes of his speech quoting messages from White Sox players and trainers including Gordon Beckham and Mark Buehrle (Beckham who let Jim know there was "no need to thank him for the back messages and rub down I gave you when I was hit less in my first three starts." Buehrle made sure to mention "everybody knows your great, we all know it, all I wanna know is can I go up to your hunting land and kill the geese on your lake.")
Needless to say it was an amazing event. I met some phenomenal people, and got to be a part of a great cause. I'm going to end this blog with my favorite quote form Paul Konerko's stories of anecdotes from the Sox players to Jim.
Paul Konerko: "Okay this is my favorite, this is me writing. 'Hey boys I'm heading to Peoria IL to go to Jim's charity benefit. I have to give a speech to kind of honor Jim. I thought it would be kinda cool to include a couple of thoughts or messages from you guys. It could be anything- something funny, or whatever. I will say it's coming from you when I do the speech. Hope you all are doing well.....' and this is Bobby Jenk's reply.....'Jim who?'"
In the words of Paulie, That will keep you on your toes.
Til next time,
We Are Chicago Baseball.