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Gould is driving force behind Bears’ visit to tornado-ravaged Washington

Updated: December 4, 2013 11:35PM



WASHINGTON, Ill. — The wooden cub holding a “Go Bears” sign was purchased four years ago, a wink-and-a-nod agreement with a Packers partisan selling tchotchkes in Wisconsin Dells.

They named him Georgie, after Halas, and brought him home to a quiet street on Dorchester Court in Washington, Ill.

He was still there Wednesday, only his left ear damaged, while most of the house was reduced to rubble by the Nov. 17 tornado.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever fix him,” Duke Faklaris said standing in front of his ravaged house. “It’s a memento.”

Minutes later, 14 capital-B Bears walked past Faklaris’ home and down his street, staring wide-eyed at the devastation and looking for ways to help.

The team’s most-maligned player this week was the reason they were here.

It was placekicker Robbie Gould who, hours after kicking the game-winning field goal against the Ravens the day of the storm, began to organize a trip to Washington.

And it was Gould who insisted on coming Wednesday, four days after his first child was born. And four days, too, after missing a game-winning 47-yard kick in Minneapolis that damaged the Bears’ playoff aspirations.

Ask why he’s here, and he gives a simple answer.

“Why not?” Gould said.

He’s not sleeping much these days, helping wife Lauren with their son.

“Between that, and missing a game-winning field goal that I’m still pretty upset about,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to practice and hit that first field goal [Thursday] afternoon.”

When the team landed Sunday night, he went to the hospital to see his child.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It put it in perspective, that I made the first field goal.

“The last field goal, he won’t remember, and eventually I won’t remember it either.”

That day won’t be soon. Helping to carry rubble from front yards to the street, linebacker Blake Costanzo found a squishy Saints football and threw it to Gould. He took a few steps and punted it back.

“I think that one went in,” he said.

With donations through his charity, Goulden Touch, the kicker rallied 14 Bears, plus chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips to travel to Washington on the team’s off day.

They visited with football players and students at Washington High School and toured ravaged neighborhoods, helping to move rubble and speaking with neighbors.

The night of the storm, Gould called cornerback Sherrick McManis, a Peoria native who had grown up playing football games and basketball tournaments in Washington.

“He really got it together,” McManis said. “The Bears backed him up on it.”

They wanted to go sooner, but Washington neighborhoods had been closed off to outsiders. Two weeks ago, Gould, McManis and others went to Coal City, where another tornado had touched down.

“This was Robbie’s idea,” ­McCaskey said. “His teammates are supporting him, and it’s great to see.

“That’s the kind of person he is. He’s got a great perspective.

“He knows what’s important.

“The birth of your first child is extremely important, but he said Lauren was in good hands.

“So he wanted to keep his commitment to come down and help out these people.”

Faklaris knows the power of perspective.

Sirens had stopped Nov. 17 before the tornado reached town, so he and his wife got in the car to go to mass. His 33-year-old son Jeff, sitting in the house’s top story, went downstairs when the garage closed.

He looked out the window and saw a tornado 300 yards away.

Jeff rushed to the basement bathroom.

His parents’ car turned around when they saw first responders rushing in.

They were away for maybe 90 seconds.

“The neighborhood was gone,” he said.

They feared their son was, too. But as they approached the house, Jeff heard his mother call and climbed out of the basement.

“It was,” Duke Faklaris said, “a very joyous time for us.”



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