On Chicago tour stop, Garth Brooks pays visit to Elk Grove High School

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Garth Brooks (left) appeared Sept. 6 at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village to greet youth athletes served by the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation and the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Basketball ProCamp. On right is University of Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self, a close friend and college pal of Brooks. | Karie Angell Luc/for Sun-Times Media

BY KARIE ANGELL LUC | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Country singer Garth Brooks brought his smile and signature cowboy hat to Elk Grove High School Sept. 6 where he greeted the school’s Grenadiers mascot, and the youth basketball athletes served by the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.

“Just remember,” Garth said to the young athletes in the high school gym. “Love one another. Love yourself.” Brooks is appearing in a sold-out comeback tour at the Rosemont Allstate Arena through Sept. 14.

Brooks, whose Chicago area concert appearances began Sept. 4 with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, talked to the youth along with University of Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self, a college chum.

“What I love about it, is that Bill and I went to college at the same time, I was in the same dorm, sweet guy then, sweet guy now,” Brooks said.

“We go way back,” said Self, who offered his coach’s advice to all.

“My deal would be, as a coach, is not to settle,” said Self, who went to Oklahoma State University with Brooks.

The two played on the same softball team for seven years. Self pursued basketball and Brooks participated in track and field.

“Don’t be content with just being OK,” Self said.

“Everybody’s got greatness inside of them and push every button you possibly can to try to reach that ceiling.”

Said Brooks about Self: “Just always a winner and he’s teaching these kids how to love one another and be teammates.”

Their message promoted the mission of ProCamps, a partnership initiative. For 10 years, the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation and ProCamps have provided scholarships for children who need assistance to attend ProCamps Sports Camps. Some of the biggest names in sports are host mentors at the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Basketball ProCamp-Chicago.

As part of the Garth Brooks World Tour, a Teammates ProCamp tour stop is a priority, and Elk Grove High School was selected for the Chicago leg of the tour.

RELATED: Sun-Times reviews Garth Brooks’ return to touring with first of 11 shows at Allstate Arena.

RELATED: VIDEO: Garth Brooks “ready for game day” as tour kicks off.

Nearly 150 youth athletes met Brooks and Self at the Saturday event. Many of the children are associated with the Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army and the Oasis Mobile Home Park at 7500 Elmhurst Road in Des Plaines.

“I’m the last of six kids and I had a mom and dad that worshiped all of us when none of us shared the same last name so we were kind of a blended family,” Brooks said. “And that’s what you (see) out here,” he said, scanning the gym. “All of these kids are different but they’re all a part of a team.

“I like how that kind of runs together with each other,” Brooks said.

Camps are free to participants from the organizations registered to attend. They vary by sport and are led by various professional athletes and coaches.

Brooks pledged to take time to come out to each camp to participate with the kids to make a lasting memory.

“From the music to the camps, it’s over-the-top,” Brooks said, appreciatively of the Chicago-area reception he’s gotten.

Mary Rittle, 9, of Elk Grove Village and a fourth-grader at the Elk Grove Queen of the Rosary School, was happy to share her take away lesson.

“So the point guard fake passes to someone and then they pass to someone else!” Mary said, within earshot of Garth Brooks.

Ella Duckmann, 9, a Des Plaines third-grader, didn’t really know who that man in the big dark cowboy hat was, but she listened to what he and the coaches advocated.

Ella learned “to work with teammates,” she said.

And yes, Mary Rittle knew something about that Mr. Brooks, maybe one song and that he’s famous.

Brooks graciously removed his hat when he greeted or shook hands with the ladies.

“Thanks for coming,” said Mary, in her message to Garth Brooks. “We really appreciate you taking your time.”

Brooks is grateful to have launched his comeback tour in Chicago.

“I just can’t thank you enough,” Brooks said to fans.

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