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Ditka Signing at Binny's Brings In Big Dollars to Christmas Without Cancer

Da coach made an appearance at the area's newest liquor store and in the process raised big money for a local non-profit organization.

Mike Ditka and Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton cut the ribbon on the new store. Photo Credit: Binny's Beverage Depot
Mike Ditka and Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton cut the ribbon on the new store. Photo Credit: Binny's Beverage Depot
By Erin Gallagher, Patch Contributor 

A Bears legend brought out big crowds and even bigger donations for a local non-profit. 

"It's a great cause, are you kidding me?," Mike Ditka remarked about Christmas Without Cancer.

The legendary former Chicago Bears coach signed autographs to raise money for the Evergreen Park-based organization as part of the grand opening celebration of Binny's Beverage Depot's new location at 3447 W. 95th St. Wednesday.

Bears fans starting lining up at 1:30 p.m. for the ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. After the first 300 people arrived, many others were turned away.

"I gotta be out of here at 8 o'clock," Ditka said. "You know why? Because I got to bed at 8 o'clock. You don't believe me. I'm a professional sleeper."

Stocked with a pile of Sharpies and a few sticks of gum, da coach hustled through item after item of personal memorabilia the public brought in. He signed everything from footballs and photographs, to game tickets and jerseys.

He also signed bottles of his own wine. The store sold 744 bottles of Ditka wine that night, according to a Binny's spokesperson.

Autograph seekers donated $25 to Christmas Without Cancer to get their memorabilia signed, raising $4,695 for the organization.

Adding to the total was a check Binny's presented Christmas Without Cancer for $10,000. All told, the charity received $14,695 Wednesday.

"There are so many families we can help with this, so many families," said Gerri Neylon, the organization's founder.

Neylon has spent her career as a registered nurse in oncology radiation. She started the group a decade ago as a way to help her patients. About four years ago the organization exploded, and she received official non-profit status. Volunteers often meet in her kitchen to help the cause. 

"We have no overhead, everything goes right to the families, every gift card, every red cent goes right to the families," she said. 

Individuals suffering from cancer need help in many ways, Neylon said. The organization helps with everything from car repairs, to groceries. It started as a group that helped just a few families around the holidays and has grown into helping people throughout the Southland all year long.

"The biggest expense people have is medications," Neylon said, adding that some cancer patients often have to choose between feeding their families or paying for their prescriptions.

"[We provide] just the things they need to get over this hump while they're in treatment," she said.

Anyone interested in making a donation or volunteering can find more information at www.ChristmasWithoutCancer.org.

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