As a longtime police officer, Mayor Tim Baldermann has met countless celebrities doing personal security for them. Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Steve Kerr, Shawon Dunston. But the stars he remembers meeting as a kid are still dearest to him.
Growing up in Evergreen Park, Baldermann went to donkey basketball fundraiser put on by the Chicago Bears, where he met the “Hit Men,” Doug Plank and Gary Fencik. Realizing the positive effect that interaction can have on a child, Baldermann sought out NBA star Dwyane Wade—for whom he did personal security and later became a good friend of—and asked him to come to New Lenox for a 3-on-3 tournament.
“As a kid, it was huge,” Baldermann said of meeting the Bears players. “And my kids had opportunities to meet some of the celebrities I did personal security for, and I saw how much they enjoyed it. So I asked Dwyane a favor to spend a couple hours with the kids here in New Lenox, and without question he said, ‘Sure, Tim.’”
Befriending Dwyane Wade
The security gig grew into a friendship, and the 3-on-3 tournament has grown into a full-blown, two-day sports camp this year. Through ProCamps, Wade is coming back to New Lenox this week and will be joined by Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, who’s doing a football camp, and Grammy winner Jim Peterik, who will be teaching kids music. The camps are Thursday and Friday this week at , capped off with the Kids Fest carnival on Saturday.
Baldermann met Wade about five years ago, just after he won the 2006 NBA Finals. Wade’s brother, Demetrius, lived in Chicago Ridge, where Baldermann was police chief at the time, and introduced the two. Wade is a Chicago native and attended in Oak Lawn. Although Baldermann doesn’t remember it, Demetrius told him they had some encounters back in the day.
“When I was a young policeman and they were young kids I guess they said I used to chase them through the neighborhood,” Baldermann said. “But they must have been pretty good kids because I didn’t remember them."
Doing personal security for the Miami Heat star, the mayor sometimes was with Wade 24/7, and the two things he took away most were how family-oriented Wade is (he has two sons he recently won custody of following a very public divorce) and the amount of charity work he does through his Wade’s World Foundation. After ProCamps takes its cut for the camp in New Lenox, all proceeds go to the foundation.
Just as the mayor has gotten close to the NBA star’s family, Wade has become a friend to the Baldermanns. He sends Christmas cards, texts “Happy Father’s Day” and signed the bedroom wall of Baldermann’s daughter, Veronica.
“He’s been really good to my kids,” Baldermann said. “That’s the point when I went from handling security at events to being his friend.”
That friendship has paid off in the larger scope in the form of the sports camp this week. Wade has had a busy year with his custody battle and free agency decision last summer in which he lured LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him on the Heat. So when he decided he could only do one camp in Chicago this year, he chose New Lenox.
“Because of our friendship and the support the community has shown the past few years, he agreed to do it here,” Baldermann said.
Wade's Free Agency
Indeed, last summer was hectic for Wade as he met with various teams hoping to snatch him away from the Heat. Many believed he would choose the Bulls so he could return to Chicago, but Baldermann said he thinks Wade made the right choice, “though I’d love to see him in a Bulls uniform.” During the 2010 free agency period, Baldermann was with Wade quite a bit while he was in Chicago meeting with the Bulls, taking time off and mulling his life-changing decision.
“He didn’t seek my council on what to do, but I certainly was privvy to a lot of that thought process,” Baldermann said, saying as an example that the rumors were false about Wade meeting with teams just to spy on their pitch. “Dwyane loves Chicago, it was a really tough decision for him.”
Baldermann remembers one time in March 2010, when free agency talk really began to heat up after the All-Star break, that Wade came to Chicago. He got out of a car with the mayor and said, “Man, it’s cold here.” Baldermann recalls it being at least 50 degrees.
“He’s gotten accustomed to the Miami life.”
So even though Bulls fans didn’t get the shooting guard they had hoped for last summer, they’ll still get to see him take his talents to New Lenox this week. Some people asked Baldermann if there would be any blowback with the camp because of his decision and the Heat’s victory over the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Although Bulls fans hated to see the Heat win, Dwyane transcends that,” the mayor said. “He didn’t just go to Miami and forget about roots. Bulls fans still like Dwyane. A lot of kids here are Dwyane Wade fans because they met him here.”
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