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Meeting Bears ‘is awesome’ for SEDOL students

Gages Lake-  Chicago Bear J.T. Thomas visits with students tables. The wives Chicago Bears  host Christmas party for

Gages Lake- Chicago Bear J.T. Thomas visits with the students at the the tables. The wives of the Chicago Bears host a Christmas party for students at the Special Education District of Lake County. Santa as well as other members of the Chicago Bears are on hand to help, eat lunch and talk to the students. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 16, 2013 2:30AM

GAGES LAKE — Chicago Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas was working the crowd, going from table to table at the eighth annual Chicago Bears Wives Holiday Party for Lake County special education students at Gages Lake School.

Students were unafraid to come right out and ask, “What happened yesterday” after the Bears fell Sunday to the rival Green Bay Packers.

“I wasn’t expecting that. They’re really in tune to what’s going on,” Thomas said. “I used it as a teachable moment. Losing, just like winning, is part of the game. It’s just great to come out and support my team.”

Thomas explained he likes talking to the kids because his younger brother, Jared, has autism. Thomas made headlines for taking a handicapped girl in Morgantown, W.V., to her eighth-grade dance in 2011, when he was a student-athlete at West Virginia University.

Some of the other Bears players on hand at the Special Education District of Lake County event were Nick Roach, whose wife, Anne-Marie, was chairwoman of the event, D.J. Moore, Anthony Walters, Matt Spaeth and Dane Sanzenbacher.

The students were from the Gages Lake School and Sally Potter School in Lake Forest. The wives work with the SEDOL Foundation to put on the party that also included pizza and salad.

Spaeth signed footballs and posed with students for pictures, including Alex, 8, of Waukegan and Vincent, 7, of Island Lake. “It’s awesome,” said Alex of the football and meeting Spaeth.

“Nobody is going to play with it,” he said. “I’m going to put it on a stand.”

His friend Vincent felt the same. “I already have my own room and I have a Batman clock. I’m going to stick (the football) in my dresser,” he said.

Anne-Marie Roach, 27, of Northbrook said the wives and significant others of Chicago Bears players put in a lot of work for the event. They had goodie bags that were overflowing with Rice Krispies Treats, Goldfish, macaroni and cheese, hot chocolate, cake mix and frosting, candy canes, ornaments and school supplies.

There was also a craft table where students could take their picture and put it on an elf.

“It was a little stressful at times, but there’s just something about it,” she said. “You know these kids are going to light up when they see it,” she said. She has been to the SEDOL event previously and remembers one young student asking her why he was getting a gift bag. Then he told her, “No one ever gave me free stuff before.”

“That’s why we do it,” she said. Her husband also put in a lot of work. “I don’t think he knew what he was getting into. I told him to just do it.” she said with a laugh.

Also working again was AC Adams, wife of Anthony Adams who was cut from the team this year. He still came back to play Santa with his daughter, Amaya, 17 months.

“This is such a useful organization which does so much for the kids. It’s really important,” AC Adams said. Not being on the team wasn’t really important because the Adams family still lives in Chicago. “There’s no better way to give back,” she said.

Some of the other volunteers were Lia Ames, 28, of Highland Park, who is dating Julius Peppers. “It’s a pleasure to be here, to have the opportunity,” she said. “It’s a positive experience and it’s fun for us, too.”

Katherine Spencer, 28, of Northbrook, was there without her husband, Chris, an offensive guard. “I’m excited to be here because it’s a good event. We have a fun time with it,” she said.

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