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Chicago Bears, Gridiron Alliance help young athletes overcome injuries

By Joe Frollo Thu, 12/08/2011 - 11:33am

The Chicago Bears football family isn’t limited to Halas Hall and the men who wear navy blue and orange.

It extends to all the players, coaches, parents and fans who take part in America’s favorite sport.

When one of their own is hurting, the organization is there to help.

The Chicago Bears are reaching out to help individuals who have sustained a major injury playing youth and high school sports through the Gridiron Alliance, a program established to improve the standard of safety in the youth and high school football and provide outreach to injured students and their families.

“The goal is to serve as a resource to guide the injured person through the first week, the first month, the first year,” said Caroline Schrenker, Bears director of community relations. “We want to serve as a guidepost for them as they navigate their new lives, sharing stories of success and frustration the others have already gone through.”

It is immediately following an injury that an individual and his family need the most help. Resources can be scarce, and young athletes can feel alone as they work their way back from trauma.

It is through this outreach program called the Gridiron Warriors that the Gridiron Alliance has grown.

“The Gridiron Warriors remind us that what started out as a team sport remains a team sport,” the organization’s website says. “The Gridiron Warriors act to support the newly injured player from a level of understanding that only their experience can provide.”

The Gridiron Alliance was formed in 2009 but its work has been going on for decades, Schrenker said. Chicago-area players who suffered different levels of paralysis during the 80s and 90s began reaching out to each other for support.

The effort grew from there and formalized with the Bears backing two years ago.

Among its programs are:

  • online resources for those needing post-injury support and rehabilitation.

  • a nationwide network among injured student-athletes, families and communities.

  • mentor training and promotion of sport safety in school through education and public awareness.

The Gridiron Alliance also is forming a scholarship fund to help injured athletes complete their academic and vocational education.

“These players need to know that they are not forgotten,” Schrenker said. “We will provide the support they need as they work their way through their new life.”

Injured student-athletes and their families, coaches, trainers or community supporters can contact the Gridiron Alliance at to share information and resources as well as build a communication network throughout the United States. Individuals who want to volunteer their support for the Gridiron Alliance can send contact information to that same email.