CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today brought Challenger – a 25-year-old Bald Eagle – to U.S. Cellular Field where it soared over the stadium during the singing of the National Anthem today to raise awareness for the Illinois Military Family Relief fund (IMFRF). The demonstration is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to make Illinois the most Veterans-friendly state in the nation, and ensure servicemembers have the support they need when they return home.
“Challenger the Bald Eagle symbolizes independence and freedom – privileges that our servicemembers give so much to protect,” Governor Quinn said. “On this Memorial Day, we honor our servicemembers for their service and sacrifice. The Illinois Military Family Relief fund is a great way to give back to those who have given so much.”
Challenger has performed at four World Series games, the Fiesta Bowl, and countless major league baseball and National Football League games. Before Challenger’s demonstration during the National Anthem today, Governor Quinn, a Sox fan himself, appealed to the fans to help the families of servicemembers called to active duty by donating to the IMFRF.
As Lieutenant Governor, Governor Quinn spearheaded the initiative to create the IMFRF after several military spouses – such as Mary Beth Beiersdorf of Arlington Heights and Brenda Robinzine of Oak Park –contacted him in 2001 with the idea of setting up a mechanism to aid military families with expenses such as groceries, rent or utility bills. Quinn then led a grassroots effort that featured the passage of resolutions by cities and counties for two years, after which lawmakers voted to make IMFRF the law of the land.
Since its passage in 2003, the IMFRF has helped more than 27,000 Illinois military families with nearly $15 million in grants. The program has served as a national model, with more than 35 other states having since passed similar ways for taxpayers to voluntarily help those who have borne the battle.
Donations to the fund can also be made by visiting OperationHomefront.org. Checks can be made payable to the Illinois Military Family Relief fund and mailed to: The Illinois Department of Military Affairs, ATTN: IMFRF, 1301 N. MacArthur Boulevard, Springfield, Illinois 62702-2399.