Charity basketball game at United Center benefits police families

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police and Cook County sheriff's deputies played a charity basketball game at the United Center to benefit and police families on Monday.

Before the tipoff there was plenty of ceremony -- a color guard, the anthem -- and a moment of silence for the loss of Commander Paul Bauer.

The entire law enforcement family is still reeling from the death of the 18th District commander, a lifelong proponent of the philosophy that drives events like this.

"We're people just like you are. We go home every night to our families and just because we wear a uniform doesn't mean we're different from other people," said Chief Melissa Staples, head of Chicago Police detectives.

Cook County sheriff's deputies have long been on board with that thinking, as the game's chief organizer explained.

"We want the community to see the officers in a different light. We want the youth to see the officers in a different light. We want them to know that we're out here trying to work to bring everyone together," said Cook County Sheriff's Deputy Claudia Martin.

The police family also was on the minds of Aurelio's pizza customers who came out to protect officers. Twenty percent of sales over the next week at the chain's Michigan Avenue location -- and online -- will go to the Behind The Vest initiative, which protects officers with the best equipment.

"They're an emotional base for us, they throw so many events throughout the year and we know that they are there for us no matter what, at any given time," said Catarina Perez, who lost her father in the line of duty.

Back at the United Center, the game's beneficiaries looked on with gratitude, such as the non-profit My Block, My Hood, My City. Money raised from the hoops action will promote understanding between police and those they serve.

"What we want to do is expand that worldview. The world doesn't end at the end of their block. So they can be doctors, lawyers, consumer engagement specialists - anything beyond the limitations of expectations," said Jahmal Cole, of My Block, My Hood, My City.
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