Ask Nancy Reinsdorf about her day, and she'll tell you, "I buy a lot of crickets."
That's because of the bearded dragon she, husband, Michael, and their three children have at their north suburban home. And the gecko. And the two frogs. And the hermit crabs.
She also spends a lot of time with her second family, the Bulls. Her husband is president and chief operating officer, and since 2012 she has been president of Chicago Bulls Charities. She helped reorganize the charity arm of the team, making it a visible and dedicated part of the franchise.
"She totally changed the organization by making it a family organization," her husband says. "Nancy is the leader of that."
Reinsdorf grew up in Highland Park and graduated from Roosevelt University, where she studied political science. After college she spent 10 years as a film producer, doing commercials and public service announcements.
In addition to cricket wrangling, lately she has been busy with An Evening with the Chicago Bulls, the team's big Feb. 12 charity event. Comedian Tim Meadows will host, with entertainment by Rev Run, DJ Ruckus and Hannibal Buress (for details, go to tinyurl.com/bullscharity).
Reinsdorf, 46, recently took time after a visit to Lurie Children's Hospital to talk about her life, the Bulls' charities and her breakfast-making skills. Here is an edited transcript:
Q: Were you an athlete in school?
A: I was a horseback rider, and mainly (into) water skiing. ... I wasn't as much a team athlete as a social athlete — running, hiking.
Q: How did you get into film producing?
A: I went out to California after my college graduation and met someone who offered me a production assistant's job at Universal Studios. It sounded really impressive. My first day I made 10 pots of coffee, drove a limo and did somebody's personal laundry. After I started working in Los Angeles, I vowed never to live anywhere where it got less than 60 degrees. Then I met the one person who was never leaving Chicago: Michael. And I came back here.
Q: Who were some of your clients when you were doing commercials?
A: Wheaties, with Michael Jordan. ,Chili's, Taco Bell, Cap'n Crunch, Sega. This was the early '90s.
Q: How did you get involved with the Bulls' charities?
A: Five years ago I started looking at the charity stuff and started paying more attention. More people were starting to tell stories about their business or their organization, and people were coming together to volunteer more. Our youngest was raised on the floor of a soup kitchen where I volunteered one week a month for a year, year and a half. I thought it would be fun to bring that feeling to the Bulls.
Q: What have you done?
A: We established three areas of focus: health and wellness, youth education and violence prevention. We really get out in the community and strengthen old relationships, and we're making new relationships.
Q: How do you keep the players inspired to make appearances? Is there a secret to inspiring volunteers, whether or not they're famous basketball players?
A: It has a lot to do with communication. We sit down with our players individually to find out what causes and issues are important to them. We also find out the kinds of activities they feel most comfortable doing. We try to make sure that we are connecting our players with groups and activities that really speak to them. And we work to keep the communication going throughout the appearance process too. Our players get background information on the person or group they are meeting before the appearance, and then we share the thank-you notes, photos and videos that we receive afterward. All of this helps to make more of a connection for the player with the cause, and demonstrates the value they created by just spending some time with someone in need.
Q: When you started out, were you ever intimidated having to work with famous athletes, and having to ask them to do things?
A: I wasn't really ever intimidated.
Q: You also championed the Embrace-a-Bulls program, which provides a VIP night at a game for families going through difficult times because of severe illness.
A: We started bringing them in, putting them courtside, taking photos, giving them a good night. Then Benny the Bull asked if he could visit. So he'll Silly String the kids, dance with the adults. And I often watch the reaction of the parents, of the kids, of the friends. They'll tear up at the smile on someone's face. You know they'll never forget that moment. We give them a night to escape.
Q: You and the Bulls are also very connected with Lurie Children's Hospital.
A: We've always had a long-standing relationship with them, first as Children's Memorial, now Lurie. But it wasn't always organized. We wanted a more formal relationship. We have a major emotional commitment to this place.
Q: You must get close to the players.
A: I do mother the players a little bit. I'm behind them. They've never said no (to any requests made of them) but if they did I'd trust that. They never leave an event without (receiving) a thank you. They know we appreciate them. I don't know the number of times I've told them, "You're like my kids."
Q: You have three kids of your own (ages 19, 17 and 14). That's a full plate. How do you make it work?
A: I wake up early. My day starts between 4:15 and 5:15. The only meal I claim to make every day is breakfast. I try to make the others when I can.
Q: What's on the breakfast menu?
A: Everything. I'm a short-order cook with a griddle. Anything they want.
Q: Who benefits most from that daily ritual, your family or you?
A: Me. I made this decision a long time ago. I know that no matter what happens to everyone's schedules during the day, I've had their full attention — and they've had mine — for at least a few minutes at the start of the day. And as a mom and a wife, it is really important to me to help my family face the world a little happier because they have a full stomach and we've spent some time together.
Q: Do you have time for hobbies?
A: I ride horses, though not as much as I'd like to. I like movies. I love to do yoga. I love music.
Q: Musical preferences?
A: When I worked in production I did music videos. Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, all the Motown girls. I like all music, all genres. The other day we were in an office, and it was Beethoven's birthday, and they were playing Beethoven. The nurses were complaining, but I loved it. I like everything. I like the music my kids listen to.
Q: Do you have a favorite artist?
A: I love Carole King. Simon and Garfunkel. Put them back together and it'd be the best day.
Q: What if you had to pick one: a Bulls game or a Simon and Garfunkel concert?
A: I'd watch the Bulls game — with Simon and Garfunkel.
For Nancy Reinsdorf, inspiration comes not from a book, movie or music: "I'd say it's knowing how to hold on to memorable moments."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun