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Bears star linebackers to host charity signing

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) runs 12 yards for touchdown after fumble recovery against AtlantFalcons second half an NFL

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) runs 12 yards for a touchdown after a fumble recovery against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. Bears' Lance Briggs, right, celebrates. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: July 6, 2012 9:29AM

Bears defensive stars Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are teaming up for a charity signing to help a Barrington girl with a rare disease.

Bridget Kennicott was healthy until she was 3, when she started to develop seizures, one that lasted 14 minutes. Today, at 7, she’s bound to a wheelchair, feeds through a tube and requires a series of medications in the morning and at night.

“She went so downhill so fast, and you try to treasure every moment and remember when she was a nutty little girl,” said Sarah Kennicott, Bridget’s mother. “It’s horrible. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Throughout their careers, Urlacher and Briggs have shown a heart for children. But they are hosting a charity signing June 1 at the Lake Barrington Field House to benefit the Kennicott family.

“I do my best off the field to make a difference,” said Briggs, who hosted a free football clinic in Chicago for 220-plus students. “We all need to step up and do what we can to find a cure for Batten Disease.

“There are too many young people like Bridget with diseases we cannot cure. I am happy to donate to the research of Batten Disease and excited that we may help Bridget in the process.”

Dana Burgess, a co-founder of Sideline Marketing, which is based in Crystal Lake, learned of Bridget’s story because Sarah Kennicott taught her children. So Burgess and Sideline Marketing co-founder Wayne Jett, who works with many of Chicago’s top athletes, decided to help the Kennicotts.

“We feel compelled to assist the Kennicott family, as Sarah Kennicott has devoted herself to the education of children,” Jett said. “Her hard work and dedication to her students, while battling Batten disease for Bridget, is a true inspiration.”

She had her first seizure on Jan. 22, 2008. Then she had a seizure in each of the next two months, the latter lasting 14 minutes. Things stabilized for a while, until she started falling over in June.

The Kennicotts sought the counsel of Dr. Michael Smith, the director of Epilepsy at Rush Medical Center, who performed more tests, including a spinal tap and skin and muscle biopsies.

In April, Dr. Smith shared the results: Bridget’s lysosomes — cells that contain an enzyme to break down waste materials — were not working. Coupled with her epilepsy, Bridget was diagnosed with Batten Disease, which affects two to four children out of every 100,000 born in the United States.

“She lost the ability to eat, walk and see. She can still feel, and she still can hear,” Sarah said. “That’s been her gateway.”

Sarah is a teacher, and husband David works for a small aircraft-leasing company. Though they have insurance, some things are not covered, such as modifications to their home tailored to Bridget’s needs.

But the Kennicotts have been encouraged by others who have wanted to help them.

“Bridget has drawn so many wonderful people to our family” Sarah said. “People just feel compelled to reach out and help you, especially when you have a sick child. It’s so overwhelming, in the most wonderful sense.”

Given the rarity of the disease, only a handful of scientists are working on it. There’s no cure, but the initial aim is to discover a way to prolong the quality of life for afflicted children.

So how do the Kennicotts cope?

“You don’t have a choice. You’re the parent, and you’re the caretaker,” Sarah said. “You care for that child, no matter what, and you’ll do whatever it takes.”


NOTE: The players will be at the Lake Barrington Field House from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. But to get an autograph, a ticket must be purchased in advance. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Bridget Kennicott, a seven-year-old Barrington girl who suffers from the rare Batten Disease. Limited tickets remain, and they can be purchased at

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