CRYSTAL LAKE – Martellus Bennett dispensed as much wisdom as he did autographs for the many children waiting to catch a moment with the Chicago Bears tight end during a Toys for Tots benefit Tuesday.
Known for his outspoken personality, Bennett on multiple occasions reminded children inside a gym at the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake not to drink and drive or consume too much eggnog during the holidays. After signing a football, he even told a nervous child that “happiness is key.”
But Bennett said he doesn’t attend benefits simply to put his face out there for fans.
“I don’t really care about my face. I think my face is pretty, and people should see it as much as possible, but I’m more of a behind-the-scenes-type person anyway,” he said. “It’s always good to meet the kids.”
Hundreds of children and adults left the Sage YMCA happy with signed helmets, hats, pennants and posters. Fans were required to bring a toy or a canned good in exchange for a free autograph from Bennett.
The proceeds benefited Toys for Tots and McHenry County food pantries, as part of the Northwest Herald’s 23rd annual holiday charity drive. Sage YMCA and the Rita Corporation also helped sponsor this year’s event.
Some Bears fans even started lining the basketball gym inside the YMCA four hours before the event began. Crystal Lake resident Del Repinski, donning a throwback Mike Singletary jersey, was the first in line to meet Bennett.
“I’m a die-hard Bears fan,” Repinski said after his four-hour wait.
He came with canned goods and left with an autographed playing card of Bennett.
The signed memorabilia works toward a greater cause, Bennett said.
“Anytime you can do something to help get a kid a toy, that’s the best possible thing you can do,” he said.