When popular athletes retire, charity work can become a double-edged sword. On one hand, they have more time to dedicate to their cause that they didn't have when they were playing games and training. On the other, they may not have the same star power they had during their playing days now that they're out of the limelight and also no longer have the same relationships with the players and media they depend on to attend their charity events.
Kerry Wood, so far, has proven to be an exception to this rule since he called it a day on his 14-year career in May.
You wouldn't know the 1998 National League Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star had retired from the response he received Friday when he was introduced at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers (it was said to be one of the loudest ovations of the event) and the support he received at his crowded Woody's Winter Warm-Up fundraiser later that night at Harry Caray's Tavern at Navy Pier.
Wood's second annual benefit drew Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, manager Dale Sveum and players, including Matt Garza (who worked the ice cream table), Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija and Darwin Barney. Also in attendance was Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who even at 81 years old never seems to miss a Cubs party, and Plain White T's guitarist Dave Tirio. In June, nearly every Cubs player (and WWE Champion CM Punk) attended Wood's seventh annual Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament at 10pin Bowling Lounge.
Still, Wood knows the challenges that face his Wood Family Foundation — the children-focused charity he founded with his wife Sarah in 2011 — the longer he is away from the game.
"There are a bunch of guys on the team I don't know," Wood said at Friday's fundraiser. "I hope the guys I do know will talk them into it, and, obviously, I'll ask. There are a lot of guys who I met for the first time and they were excited to come. I always get great support from the fellas and the whole organization."
Wood and his foundation passed out about 5,000 sets of school supplies at HopeFest in Humboldt Park in July, and their Warm Wishes program provided winter clothing and toys to more than 400 students at Nash Elementary School in the Austin neighborhood in December. (The foundation turned the school's auditorium into a Winter Wonderland for the occasion, complete with Santa Claus and Christmas trees.) According to Sarah Wood, the bowling tournament, considered the foundation's signature event, will be replaced this year by a whiffle ball fundraiser at Wrigley Field in August.
"We felt the bowling event ran its course, with me no longer being a player and having access to the guys," Wood said. "Also, a lot of people are doing bowling events and we kind of wanted to do something more exclusive that not everybody can duplicate."
According to a spokeswoman for the Wood Family Foundation, more than $100,000 was raised at Friday's fundraiser. Last year's event raised more than $80,000.
Heads up: You can catch Paul Caravelli — chef of 545 North Bar and Grill in Libertyville — Tuesday on the premiere of ABC's cooking competition "The Taste." Caravelli is one of 16 contestants who must impress the four judges and mentors, including "The Taste" executive producers Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson. "I was just so psyched to be in the same room as Anthony Bourdain … even if he was going to be rude to me," Caravelli said in a news release. … Former "American Idol" winner and Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze returns to Viper Alley in Lincolnshire April 19. DeWyze announced Tuesday that he has signed with the independent label Vanguard Records, home of Chris Isaak and the Indigo Girls. "I've never felt better about being in a place I am right now and we plan on releasing an album, a single very early this year," said DeWyze in a video message to his fans.
About this week: Former "All My Children" actor and "Dancing with the Stars" winner J.R. Martinez will be the keynote speaker Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. … Former "Hogan Knows Best" star Nick Hogan will DJ Friday at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg.
Sightings: Reality TV star Kristin Cavallari worked out Tuesday at the Equinox gym in my hometown of Highland Park. … New Bears coach Marc Trestman dined with his family Thursday at Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse in the Gold Coast. The Cubs' Rizzo had dinner there Wednesday. … Former Bears coach Mike Ditka dined Jan. 14 at Sunda. Former "Bachelorette" Ali Fedotowsky was there Tuesday. … The Blackhawks' Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland dined Jan. 11 at Tavern on Rush. Teammate Michael Frolik dined at Japonais Tuesday and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville dined at Japonais Jan. 12. … The Bulls' Vladimir Radmanovic dined Jan. 13 at Joe's Stone Crab. … Bulls legend Bob Love dined Jan. 10 at O'Donovan's in the North Center neighborhood.Copyright © 2015, RedEye