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Refrigerator Warms Up to Help Girl, 7

Associated Press

Chicago Bear rookie William (The Refrigerator) Perry warmed hearts, gave money and caused a sensation Monday when he appeared as part of a fund-raising effort for a 7-year-old girl who needs a liver transplant.

Perry, the 302-pound defensive tackle-running back, gave $1,000 and declared himself national spokeman for the “Crystal Jenkins Life Fund for Children” as about 300 people cheered at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

“I grew up with 12 people in my family,” said Perry, 22, a native of Aiken, S.C. “I thank the Lord that no one in my family ever needed a transplant.

“I made a promise to the good Lord that if I could get in a situation to help somebody, I’d do it.”

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Miss Jenkins, who is from Blackville, S.C., a few miles from Perry’s hometown, suffers from biliary artesia and will die within a year if she doesn’t have a liver transplant, doctors said.

U.S. Rep. Butler Derrick, D-S.C., who represents the district including Blackville and Aiken, asked Perry to help raise the $250,000 needed for the transplant, which would be performed at the Chicago hospital.

“When we called and asked for help, he didn’t hesitate one second in giving his time and money,” Derrick said.

Over $110,000 has already been raised for the operation in South Carolina, Derrick said. Any extra money raised would be used to help other children at the hospital, officials said.

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“I know how warm-hearted people in Chicago are,” said Perry. “I will start the pledge for Crystal Jenkins by donating $1,000 for her transplant.

“I hope many more people hear me today and send their contributions in,” he said.

Money should be sent to the hospital in care of the fund, Perry said.

After his presentation--attended by hundreds of hospital employees, patients and visitors--Perry toured a pediatrics ward, signing autographs and talking with ailing youngsters.

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“I think it’s wonderful,” said Peter Schipma of Oak Forest, an adult patient, of Perry’s visit.

“He’s the nation’s sweetheart,” said nurse Patty Doolis.

Perry, accompanied by his wife, Sherry, waded through a mob of autograph-seekers after the news conference before plunging into another crowd of fans in the pediatrics ward.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the six years I’ve been here,” said Carolyn Reed, a public relations officer for the hospital, as doctors, nurses and patients crowded the narrow hallways of the pediatrics section to get a look at the 6-foot-2 Perry.

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“I can’t believe he’s really 300 pounds,” said one employee.

“My husband’s bigger than him,” said secretary Karren Jamaca.


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