Cubs get charitable helping hands from MLB mascots

November 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Each fall, Cubs Charities has volunteers loading up vehicles near Wrigley Field to distribute Thanksgiving meals around Chicago. The event had a group of unexpected guests chipping in this year.

With the MLB Mascot Conference also happening in the city on Thursday, the Cubs had Fredbird, Mr. Met, Orbit and Wally the Green Monster working alongside Clark the Cub to load boxes into cars. It was an unusual, but entertaining sight for the team’s annual Thanksgiving initiative.

“Everybody showed up -- it was amazing,” said Jennifer Dedes-Nowak, assistant director of Cubs Charities. “It was so fun and it just brought a whole energy to the event and helped bring attention to what we were doing, which is to make sure people are provided with a Thanksgiving meal across Chicago and that they feel cared for and supported.

“We’ve been hosting this event for many years, but that really elevated it this year.”

Cubs Charities partnered with National Runaway Safeline -- which provides assistance to runaway, homeless and at-risk youth -- to pack 450-plus meals from Smoke Daddy BBQ in Wrigleyville for delivery to more than 20 shelters around the city. Besides the Cubs’ associates and MLB’s mascots, pitcher Brandon Hughes was also on hand to help out.

This holiday season, Cubs Charities also has a few drives happening:

Tuesday, Nov. 21
Wintrust Community Tree Lighting
4-9 p.m. CT
Attendees are encouraged to bring new hats, gloves and scarves and new or gently used coats (all sizes) for Cradles to Crayons. The Cradles to Crayons Cruiser will be parked on the south end of Gallagher Way beginning at 4 p.m., serving as a drop-off location for the winter weather gear.   

Nov. 27-Dec. 15
Food drive for Nourishing HOPE Chicago  
Bins will be located in the Cubs Store in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field and in the Cubs’ offices lobby.

Dedes-Nowak noted that Cubs Charities associates are on target for more than 750 hours of volunteer service this year, including a slew of programs around the holidays.

They will be helping with food distribution at Pan de Vida in Little Village and teaming with Nourishing HOPE for food packing. They will be baking items at Misericordia’s Hearts and Flour Bakery, and continuing a partnership with Blessings in a Backpack and the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club to deliver food for youth in need.

Dedes-Nowak added that this has been a year filled with volunteer work by a growing list of Cubs players.

helped out once again with the Cubs Scholars program. donated more than 300 pairs of batting gloves to kids involved in the Cubs’ Jr. All-Stars. pitched in at a local school as part of the All-Star grant initiative. Julian Merryweather and Michael Rucker spent time at a wheelchair baseball event connected with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Hayden Wesneski spoke to a group from the CASE (Careers As Sports Executives) program.

With a group of players spending part of their offseason in Chicago, Dedes-Nowak was hopeful even more would help out with ongoing programs in the months leading up to Spring Training.

“It’s been really exciting,” Dedes-Nowak said. “With our team this past season, everyone was willing to step up to the plate, asking how they could get involved. We had a lot of engagement this year and we’re really excited for the future of incorporating our players into our work.”