CRYSTAL LAKE – With a couple of puzzles to donate, Larry Loss, 60, and Carol Zellhofer, 65, both of Woodstock, waited at the Superior 24/7 Health Club for four hours to get a couple of autographs.
Loss brought a Bears T-shirt already donning 75 to 80 autographs, and Zellhofer carried a picture of Chicago Bears running back Michael Bush.
“We’re devoted fans,” Loss said.
They were two of the few hundred people who dropped off new toys for children in need in exchange for a free autograph from Bush at the 22nd annual Northwest Herald Toys for Tots drive.
People waited inside the Superior 24/7 Health Club, some for hours, in order to have footballs, helmets, shirts, pictures and hats signed by Bush.
“It’s good to show your face in the community,” Bush said. “I might brighten people’s day.”
Bush, who likes GI Joes and board games, wanted people to know he is approachable and “see I’m a cool guy, laid back who likes to have fun, [and] enjoy fans.”
The goal of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December, and distribute the toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
Justin Little, 11, of Lake in the Hills came with his mom, Michelle. They brought a Bears football to the event.
“I love football... [and] he’s a good a runner,” Justin said.
They donated a GI Joe soldier toy at the event.
“I’m here for my son; he’s a big football nut,” Michelle Little said. “We watch the Bears all the time and heard [Bush] was going to be here, and we wanted to donate a toy to Toys for Tots because its a great organization, with what they stand for. We get the best of both worlds, a little football, a little donation.”
Larry Berg, owner of Superior 24/7 Health Club, hosted the event.
He and his wife, Jill Howe, have collected for Toys for Tots at Superior Health and Wellness, the clinic attached to the gym, since 1998.
“My wife and I haven’t had kids before; we always thought it would be special to give back to something we wanted to have dearly in life,” Berg said. “We know there is a need for it.”
They bring in about 500 toys a year.
“We really enjoy giving back to the community,” Berg said.
Alex Ledinsky, 13, of Algonquin donated a toy to have a Nerf football signed.
“I really love the Bears, they’re my favorite team ... [and] Michael Bush is still really good,” Alex said.
Trever Crow, 12, of Algonquin donated a toy car to have his Bears hat signed.
“People need toys for Christmas,” Trever said. “I think everybody should have a merry Christmas.”