The cardio and strength class at the Cancer Survivorship Center in Park Ridge had a surprise guest instructor on Monday.
A dozen people, mostly women and all survivors of various types of cancer, gasped and clapped when Bears receiver Javon Wims poked his head in the room. Wims, an imposing 6-4 and clad in his Bears jersey, informed them he’d be helping out with the class.
After joining in for a 10-minute warm-up, Wims joked that the class had been challenging, even for a professional athlete.
“Y’all kicked my butt!” said Wims.
At that point, Wims handed out swag packages to all the participants before revealing his other reason for coming: to honor a member of the class, Yolanta Krysztopa.
Krysztopa was raising two children as a single mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now years into remission, she is a constant figure at the Center, where she is known to offer rides and advice freely to the newer visitors. The Center’s staff had told her that a Bears player would be in class but not that he’d be bearing gifts specifically for her.
Wims presented Krysztopa with a custom jersey with her name on the back and, via the Bears Community Connections program brought to you by Jewel-Osco, four tickets and sideline passes to Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargersplus $1,000 in grocery credit.
Krysztopa said that she was most excited to tell her children, both Bears fanatics, about her experience.
“They’re going to be so excited,” said Krysztopa. “My son is all the way in Warsaw, Poland. He’s going to flip over.”
The Cancer Survivorship Center was built five years ago, and classes such as the one frequented by Krysztopa have been a central focus since the beginning.
“The purpose of this building is to think of cancer treatment other than taking medication and seeing doctors,” said Samantha Daniel, who works as an administrator at the Center. “Here, we go on the other side of wellness, such as staying healthy, exercising.”
Wims has taken a particular interest in doing work around cancer awareness. His stepmother, Anna, who has been in his life since he was a toddler, is also a survivor of breast cancer, having been diagnosed while Wims was in college. He has been eager to help out with cancer-related initiatives and has participated in several other events over the course of the year.
“This one touched home,” said Wims. “I’ve seen somebody experience it.”
Wims, who has seen an increased role in his second year with the Bears and recorded his first NFL touchdown on Sunday, mused about his newfound status and the attention that comes with it.
“With all power, when kids look up to anybody,” said Wims, “you have a sense of responsibility. I definitely feel it to share a light on good things.”