CHICAGO – “Challenger” - a 16 year- old Bald Eagle - soared through the skies over Wrigley Field during Wayne Mesmer’s singing of the National Anthem before the Cubs vs. Astros game to raise further awareness of the “Illinois Military Family Relief Fund.”
Challenger has performed at five World Series games, the Fiesta Bowl and countless major league baseball and National Football League games. This was Challenger’s second visit to Chicago.
Challenger’s flight was made possible with the help of Anheuser-Busch, the Chicago Cubs, the Office of Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and other sponsors.
“The bald eagle symbolizes strength and independence,” Quinn said. “On this Memorial Day, we remember those who answered the call to duty to protect our democracy and freedom.”
Before Challenger’s demonstration during the National Anthem, Quinn appealed to the fans to help the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists called to active duty by donating to the “Illinois Military Family Relief Fund.”
The bald eagle has been the central image used in the Great Seal of the United States since 1782 and in the state seal since it was a territory in 1809. Once on the endangered species list, the bald eagle population is actual growing, especially in northwest Illinois, where winter eagle-watching has become a thriving form of state tourism.
Challenger – who was named in honor of the Space Shuttle crew – was blown from a nest as a baby during a storm, was rescued by humans and became “human socialized.” He was placed under the care of the American Eagle Foundation, based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and has become a well-known ambassador for his species. Challenger has made hundreds of educational appearances since 1993.
The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund - drafted by Quinn and unanimously passed by the General Assembly - was signed into law in February 2003, by Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Fund assists the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists called to active duty with rent, car payments and utility bills and has already received more than $122,398 in private donations. Some 2,444 families have received more than $1.3 million from the Fund already.
To find out ways to help our troops, visit the website, www.OperationHomefront.org
, which has garnered 7,068,451 million hits
and is one of the most informative military websites regarding American troops in the country.