Former Chicago Bears cornerback and current FBI agent Charles “Peanut” Tillman acknowledges his fear of water and that he has zero experience as a rower. Nevertheless, he plans to overcome his fears for a good cause this summer. Tillman is in process of building a boat to take him across Lake Michigan in an effort to raise funds for pediatric cancer research and assist families of young cancer patients.
As part of the charity adventure plans, the 13-year NFL veteran is partnering with marketing executive Jacob Beckley, who rowed 65 miles across Lake Michigan by himself three years ago to raise money for charity. Despite vowing to never do it again, Beckley agreed to join Tillman on their joint “Row4Kids” trek in support of childhood cancer research and resources for patients and their families.
With the Beckley Foundation committed to research efforts for treatments and cures for childhood cancer and Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation focused on providing financial support for the immediate needs of critically and chronically ill children and their families, the partnership is fitting. Tillman’s motivation also comes from the support his family received during his then-infant daughter’s heart transplant in 2008.
"It's a lot of people out there who helped me when my daughter Tiana was sick," stated Tillman. "As they say, it takes a village. Oh, I had a whole village, plus some, that really helped us out. This is our way of giving back. … What other way, man? Just get off your butt and build a boat and row across Lake Michigan."
Tillman’s children are also involved in the project to build the boat that will ferry Tillman and Beckley across the lake this coming summer. When the project is completed, naval professionals will perform safety checks and inspections on the vessel. With the trip set to begin in August, the dynamic duo aims to collect $200,000 in donations through the initiative.
Tillman's commitment to philanthropy and hands-on community work, as well as his excellence on the field, earned him the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2013. Additionally, the two-time Pro Bowl selection received the Brian Piccolo Award three times during his NFL career for his courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor.
A native of Chicago, Tillman hopes that rowing nonstop for charity across Lake Michigan — from St. Joseph, Michigan, to Chicago — will inspire others to overcome adversity and take action to make a positive difference in the world.
Learn more about how you can support the Row4Kids initiative here.