CHICAGO - All smiles, a few laughs and a couple of ping pong paddles.
This was a reunion of familiar faces now in different places at an unusual venue for a football meeting.
Standing together for a picture were Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Kyle Long. About 15 months ago they were teammates on the Bears but that’s no longer the case.
Forte and Marshall will be together on the Jets next season while Long is the one holdover in Chicago as the young offensive lineman is quickly becoming the face of Bears football.
It’s the face of a more serious issue, however, that brought about this reunion in the basement of Spin Ping Pong Chicago on Friday night. That’s Marshall, whose Project 375 made a stop back in the town he used to call home.
“Real Chats Off the Gridiron with Kyle Long” was an event that also featured a “Paddle Battle” at the ping pong tables at the new venue in River North. The goal was to raise $100,000 for children’s mental health services in Chicago.
Project 375 was created by Marshall to raise awareness of mental health issues in society today and Long jumped at the chance to take part. Long along with Forte, who will join Marshall with the New York Jets this season, appeared at the event to show support for the efforts of their former teammate.
“I’m very, very proud to say that I’m here helping Brandon out and spreading the word and being able to help schools in the Chicago area,” said Long, who spoke about his own struggles during a talk with Marshall at the event.
As part of the “Real Chats,” Long talked about his struggle with anxiety and being diagnosed with ADHD as a child.
“Unfortunately in our society there is a stigma behind a lot of the mental health issues,” said Long. “As somebody who has dealt with a number of things I can say that it doesn’t make me a bad person.”
To learn more about the efforts of Project 435 or to give a donation, visit their website at http://www.project 375.org.