CHICAGO | It's not the red carpet at the Academy Awards, but a walk on the Soldier Field playing surface before 60,000 cheering fans is a joyous lifetime memory for most people.
The LaVelle family, of Hobart, shared that uplifting experience before kickoff Thursday night for the Bears-Giants game. Nine-year-old Alexandria "Allie" LaVelle was escorted out out onto the field by father Chris and older brother Chris Jr. during pregame flag ceremony.
"Awesome," said Allie, clutching her Bears ticket.
"More than awesome," said Chris LaVelle Jr.
Watching from their seats were Allie's mother, Emily LaVelle, and her 9-month-old sister, Brooklyn.
Allie and Brooklyn were born with congenital heart defects and are treated at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.
The experience at Soldier Field was arranged through Advocate, where Allie has been a regular her entire life.
During a September appointment, she visited the pediatric heart unit to greet the nurses. They were the ones who nominated her to be the guest at the Bears game, Emily LaVelle said.
Allie gives back to the unit. She ran lemonade stands this summer, raising $75 to buy clothes for infant cardiac patients and games and toys for the older children.
"They said they brought up her name because they loved seeing Allie and her willingness to do this for the heart unit," her mother said.
The Ridge View Elementary School fourth-grader participated in pregame festivities Thursday before kickoff.
"When we told Allie, she just lit up," her Emily LaVelle said of the special opportunity. "Her face was priceless."
She weathered some ribbing, though, from friends and teachers who are Colts fans.
"We are definitely Bears fans," her mother said.
Allie's parents waited until the paperwork was complete Wednesday to tell her she would set foot on the field.
"She was awestruck," Emily LaVelle said.
Brooklyn was too young to go on the field Thursday, but the family hoped she would get to meet the Bears mascot, Staley da Bear.