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Windy City Bulls fans honor community heroes.

Active duty military, veterans and first responders were honored during "Community Heroes Night" at the Feb. 8 Windy City Bulls game vs. the Grand Rapids Drive at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates.

Sports heroics were also feted, as people could get their photos taken with the Chicago Bulls' NBA championship trophies and meet legendary player Bob Love, who signed autographs for fans.

Two organizations -- Operation Horses and Heroes and True Patriots Care -- were featured as part of Community Heroes Night.

Elgin-based Operation Horses and Heroes uses Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) to help veterans and active duty military with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other similar challenges.

When some military personnel come back from active duty, they can become reclusive and start to shut down. They end up compartmentalizing so much from their previous experiences it can be difficult for them to fit into regular life, said Keith French, co-founder and treasurer.

The program helps improve self-esteem, reduce stress, promote positivity, improve communication and be part of a community. Many participants and their family members have sent thank-you notes after therapy programs because of the difference it made in their lives.

True Patriots Care, an Elgin-area organization founded and run by Jerry Christopherson, began as a remembrance of 9/11 victims and has branched out into several flag-focused events each year.

The group helped bring The Wall That Heals -- a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. -- to West Dundee in 2019 and also put up 1,588 flags to accompany the display to represent POW/MIAs from Vietnam. Christopherson, a Vietnam-era veteran, also has staged similar displays for veterans, first responders and others in Oak Brook, Carpentersville and the University of Notre Dame in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation. True Patriots Care and other veterans-focused groups helped with the unfurling of a large American flag on the court during the national anthem.

Before, during and after the game, people could check out a variety of fascinating vehicles, including two Humvees and a new armored Bearcat vehicle used by the Kane County Sheriff SWAT team.

Army recruiters were stationed near the Humvee and in the concourse to talk with people about the more than 150 careers offered through the Army, said Capt. Jamie Kite, a commander in charge of northwest suburban recruitment based in Libertyville. Another Humvee was parked outside the main entrance.

Another eye-catching display was the six NBA Championship trophies won by the Bulls from 1991-1998. People lined up to get their pictures taken with the hardware.

"I had never seen them before; it's quite an experience!" said Debbie Sander of Prospect Heights, who attended many playoff games during the Bulls' glory years.

Attendees also helped a locally based team raising money for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago Move for Kids 5K. The team includes two girls from Roselle -- Nevaeh and Alyssa -- who have both received help from the hospital.

The hospital does "so much for patients and families, and you don't realize it until you're actually a part of it," said Nevaeh's mother, Victoria Viglietta.

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Title Annotation:Lifestyle
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Feb 13, 2020
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