Fenton announces another Bears community service winner
Score another victory for Matthew Lynch's Fenton football program and the priority they place on off-the-field success.
After senior lineman Eric Moreno earned the first Chicago Bears Community High School All-Star award last month, senior quarterback Nickolas Benn became the second Fenton player to win that award.
"I was shocked," Benn said. "After hearing about my teammate getting it, I was really proud of him. I knew how prestigious of an award it was so to find out I got it too I was really excited and really honored."
Lynch, who also recently won the NFL's National High School Coach of the Week, is glad to see his players being recognized for the time they spend giving back to their community.
"When it came across my desk to nominate, it was a no-brainer to do so," Lynch said. "It's a testament to the school and community as a whole, their parents.
"This is one of the most accepting group of students I've been a part of. They are really open and welcoming and accepting. That leads to their willingness to open up their hearts to others."
Benn was a freshman with the Bison when Lynch became coach in 2017-18.
"The second coach Lynch stepped in the door I knew something special was about to go on at Fenton," Benn said. "It's been awesome. It really shows in the kids at Fenton with what we are really doing here.
"First thing he says is it's bigger than football -- you meet him for the first time and here's your new football coach but you've almost got a life partner, to be honest, because he went outside of football to get involved in the community. As much I enjoy football, I've learned a lot from him outside of football."
The award, sponsored by Athletico Physical Therapy, recognizes high school football players making a positive impact in their community and school throughout the season. Benn, who won the football team's 2020-21 Burlsworth Character Award, also is on the bowling and baseball teams.
His involvement in the community has included volunteering at the Fenton's food pantry, Faith Community United Church of Christ Food for Families, Feed My Starving Children, UNICEF and Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago.
Benn has helped raise money for the football program at Music in the Park and Bensenville Carnival and completed several service projects for National Honor Society. He also made the Illinois High School Coaches Association Academic All-State team.
Benn is directing the $500 donation he receives for winning the award to Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago.
"His ability to express gratitude is unmatched for someone his age," said Lynch. "Nickolas' quest to help better the lives of others around him, known and unknown, without any expectation of receiving anything in return is inspiring."
Benn said of all the extracurricular activities, he's taken a lot from the time spent with the food pantries.
"They are really special because they are your community," Benn said. "Once you step in there you realize these are people who are around you every day. It really makes you not take for granted for what you have and makes you want to reach out and help because we are in this together and it's your town and your people and there's nothing better than giving back. It's bigger than yourself."
Christine Bohnen, the Community Service Coordinator at Fenton, said in 2018-19 the seniors at the school combined for 22,412 hours of community service.
"It's a really good feeling to know these kids are going out on their own and doing it just because," Bohnen said. "And they are very enthusiastic about it."