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Kerry Wood prepares for a season of charity

| Steve Green

| Steve Green

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Updated: December 27, 2012 6:09AM

Giving ... this is definitely the time of year when you think about the spirit of giving.

Baseball and the city of Chicago have given me more than I could ever have imagined. Playing in the Major Leagues and for the Chicago Cubs was the job of a lifetime. My world got bigger, my role more challenging, my name more recognizable, yet I was still the same young kid who pretended to be Nolan Ryan in my backyard in Irving, Texas.

As a family, my wife Sarah and our three kids — Justin, Katie and Charlie — understand the importance of giving back to our city. The love of making a difference is something that is talked about over many family dinners in my house. So in 2011, Sarah and I started the Wood Family Foundation. We have seen many players start foundations over the years, for many different reasons. But we knew where our hearts were and how ours would be different. Our love for our city’s kids made our mission an obvious one: We wanted to start a grassroots effort where we could rally our community to give back, no matter their budget. This city is filled with a community of givers, but many don’t know how, so whether they’re going through their closets and pulling out scarves and gloves, helping collect school supplies or sponsoring a baseball clinic on the South Side, we want the WFF to be the vessel.

In the past year, the WFF has hosted bowling and music fundraisers, school supply drives, baseball clinics and holiday coat and toy drives, all with the hope of helping kids be kids. We spent time this summer in Englewood with our baseball kids (did I mention they got game down there?) and saw faces light up in Humboldt Park when we passed out their year’s worth of school supplies.

One event we are looking forward to is our Warm Wishes program. Now in its second year, the WFF selects a school in one of our target neighborhoods and celebrates the work they have done. This year’s recipient is Nash Elementary School in Austin. We enlist the help of our foundation’s sponsors to provide coats and toys to each and every student, and on Nash’s last day before winter holiday break, we transform the school’s auditorium into a Winter Wonderland, complete with fake snow and Santa. We cannot be more excited to bring some holiday magic to the kids at Nash Elementary this season.

We are also enlisting the help of our community to help us in collecting new hats, gloves and scarves for our city’s kids. Look for bins placed in all of the Harry Caray restaurants until Jan. 18.

It’s been a dream to have played Major League Baseball but most of all an honor to play for you, Chicago. You all gave me so much to me over the years and have taught me what’s important — so it’s time for to me to do that for you. During this busy holiday season, I urge you to remember those in our community who need us and find a way to give.

Kerry Wood donated his fee for writing this column to the Wood Family Foundation. Tickets are available for Woody’s Winter Warm Up, a fundraiser for the WFF on Jan. 18 at Harry Caray’s Tavern Navy Pier; $125,

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