CHICAGO LAWN — Former Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis knows the pain caused by domestic violence, and knows specifically what a playground can do to help children caught up in such violence.
So when Davis learned that one of his favorite charities, WINGS, was building a new domestic violence shelter on the South Side, he asked what he could do to help.
The organization had the funds to build the new safe house, but not enough to provide an outdoor play space for kids staying at the shelter.
"The children that come and live here wouldn't be able to walk down to the city park because it's not safe there," said Rebecca Darr, CEO of WINGS.
So Davis enlisted the help of the Chicago Bears, who signed on to build a custom-designed, fully-accessible playground. The group unveiled the playground, plus much of the new facility, for the first time Tuesday.
Davis said WINGS is "near to my heart" and that a playground here would go a long way to helping kids stuck in a bad situation.
He said his mother was abused by a father who died when Davis was young.
"I remember dealing with some rough nights," Davis said. "I appreciate that I can give back. I know I didn't make it to the NFL on my own."
WINGS, or Women In Need Growing Stronger, will in February open its new, 40-bed safe house in Chicago Lawn.
The $6 million home is the first new domestic violence shelter built in the city in a decade, Darr said. It will increase the number of domestic violence shelter beds in the city by 35 percent, according to a city press release.
Supporters toured the home today, which sits discreetly behind commercial storefronts (WINGS asked that the address not be printed to ensure the safety of its future clients).
They also got the first look at the new playground, a modest playground painted in Bears blue and orange.
"I told Rebecca [Darr, the CEO], 'Great job with the colors," said George McCaskey, chairman of the Chicago Bears.
McCaskey, also on hand to unveil the playground, said the team was approached by Davis, who asked them to help with the building of the shelter.
He said the Bears signed on, although they didn't know their donation would go to the creation of the playground. He's glad the Bears could contribute in such a profound way.
"We left it up to the good judgment of WINGS," McCaskey said. "They're going to need an outlet. They're going to need a safe place."
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