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Daughter Of Bears Legend Hopes To Raise Concussion Awareness

By Justin Breen | January 15, 2013 11:37am

LINCOLN PARK — Evan Fencik hopes countless hours of planning pays off in a big way Wednesday.

The Francis Parker School senior — and daughter of legendary Bears safety Gary Fencik — has spent the last several months organizing a Concussion Awareness seminar, to be held at Francis Parker's Heller Auditorium.

Wednesday's two-hour session, which begins at 6 p.m., is free and open to the public. It features former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, whose career ended in 2010 because of concussions, and Chris Nowinski, co-founder and executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute and the author of "Head Games."

"She has done a good job of putting a very interesting agenda together for people who are interested in concussions," said Gary Fencik, 58, a starting safety for the 1985 Bears who won Super Bowl XX.

Concussions have increasingly become a major issue in sports, with the suicides of former NFL players Dave Duerson and Junior Seau being linked to post-concussion related issues. Fencik said he is among the growing number of former pros who will be donating their brains and spinal cords to Nowinski.

"They need brains that are healthy from players to compare to the unhealthy, post-traumatic injury brains for better research," said Fencik's wife, Sandy.

Evan Fencik is no stranger to concussions. Her brother, Garrison, now a student at the University of Southern California, missed a good portion of his junior boys basketball season at Francis Parker after suffering two concussions over a one-week span.

Evan Fencik, one of Francis Parker's top soccer players, lost two games of her junior season because of a concussion. Fencik said she took an elbow to the area between the neck and ear in the back of her head and immediately didn't feel right.

"I was just shocked how very few people seemed to realize the significance of a concussion," said Fencik, 18. "It almost seemed as if people felt I was pretending, and it was frustrating."

She wrote an article about raising concussion awareness for the school's newspaper as a junior and decided to dedicate the second half of her senior year to the seminar, which is considered an "independent study" course at the school.

Fencik worked with Upper School counselor Kavita Ajmere on the project, meeting on a weekly basis to discuss specifics.

"It's been an amazing undertaking for her, and she's done a wonderful job trying to inform people about the seriousness of concussions," Ajmere said.

Fencik is hoping to attract at least 100 spectators for Wednesday's event. She especially wants student-athletes — she's reached out to several Chicago high schools — to attend.

"I want to give people precautions to take so they can play the sport they love," she said.