CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis is turning to current and former teammates to help raise money for the family of William "Christopher" Pettry, the Bears fan slain early Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.
The 42-year-old Pettry, a Lake Villa, Ill., resident in town for the Bears-Jaguars game, was stabbed at Fionn MacCool's, an Irish restaurant and bar in the Jacksonville Landing area. He later was pronounced dead. Jacksonville resident Matthew Hinson, 28, was arrested for the crime and since has been charged with felony murder.
Davis and his agent, Wayne Jett, are hosting a fundraiser for the family Saturday at John Barleycorn-Wrigleyville in Chicago. Bears memorabilia and other items will be auctioned off to help raise funds to assist Pettry's wife, Karen, and her three children. Pettry was the sole financial provider for his family at the time of his death.
In addition to Saturday's event, Davis and his camp also set up a webpage where donations can be made.
"My heart goes out to the Pettry family that lost their loved one over a senseless act," Davis said. "I wanted to show my support when I heard about this, so I started a donation page and am participating in a fundraiser that my team helped put together."
Veronica Pettry, a sister of Christopher Pettry, said the family is "overwhelmed with gratitude" that Davis and his team approached them with an offer to help.
"Our whole family has been reached out to by (people in) Jacksonville, Fla., and the penultimate has been being reached out to by players who are taking time out of their own lives and families to help us, and we're just so overwhelmed with gratitude," Veronica Pettry said. "Of course Chicago is an amazing town. It may be a big city, but it's a big city with heart."
Veronica Pettry said the entire family is coming to the event Saturday from "all corners of the state."
"We're all really excited about celebrating my brother's life," she said. "I know he would probably be pretty (ticked) off that he wasn't there ... He's looking down from heaven right now smiling from ear to ear like he always was."
Veronica Pettry, a former Chicago Police sergeant who now lives in Denver, said the family has received tremendous support from people everywhere.
"What happened to my brother was a horrible act of violence, but I don't want one man's decision to underscore the amount of love that so many people in Chicago, Jacksonville and Denver have for a fellow human being," she said.
Former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris and fullback Jason McKie are among the ex-players scheduled to attend Saturday. Chris Pettry's story hit home for McKie because McKie's son plays in the same park district youth football league as one of Pettry's children. McKie also runs a foundation geared toward providing financial relief for families of deceased military members.
"Family life is so precious and to think that a life was taken like that, it's just not right," McKie said. "We want to help the family out any way we can. I mean, who is going to help this family take care of their bills now that the main provider is gone? And to leave a wife like that with children, it's tragic. Bears players, past and present, want to show our support.
"I mean, my son played in the same park district football league as Mr. Pettry's son. They are from Lake Villa; we are from Gurnee (Ill.). It's basically right up the road. The goal is to show support and raise some money for this family in a timely manner."
Bears coach Lovie Smith expressed his condolences for the Pettry family when he opened his Monday news conference.
"Like we talked last week, our fans were outstanding," Smith said. "As I said (Sunday), from the hotel and of course throughout the game, we had a lot of people who came down to support us. Chris Pettry was one of them, one of our loyal supporters that was killed as he came to Jacksonville to support his favorite team. So our prayers definitely go out to his family."