While our focus when it comes to the Minnesota Vikings is obviously what happens on the field, we do like to highlight some of the things that the players for our favorite team (as well as the team themselves) do for the Twin Cities community. We do more of that during the offseason, but the fact that the games have started on the field doesn’t mean that the good works stop off of it.
Since we haven’t done one of these for a while, we wanted to take some time to catch up on some of the positive things that the Vikings are doing for the Twin Cities community.
Just this past week, the team held a clinic for over 300 children from the area at U.S. Bank Stadium. But, in this case, it wasn’t a football clinic. Instead, they held an event in conjunction with TeamSmile to provide free dental exams for those children in need. If you’re anything like me, you can think of about a million different things that you’d rather do than have dental work done, but having it at U.S. Bank Stadium gave the kids an opportunity to relax.
Oh, and having Justin Jefferson show up probably helped the kids relax quite a bit as well. As it turns out, Jefferson wasn’t exactly a fan of the dentist as a child, either.
“I know how uncomfortable it is, but this environment alone lets them ease up a little bit and lets them have fun, but also get their dental care.”
“Your teeth are important,” Jefferson said. “You’ve got to have a nice smile.”
Who wants to Griddy with bad teeth, am I right? Jefferson was joined by other members of the Vikings, including Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Camryn Bynum, and Troy Dye for the clinic, which met its goal of providing services for children who might not be able to make regular visits to the dentist.
The Vikings spent the offseason attempting to build a foundation for the 2021 season, but just before the start of the regular season, several members of the team helped a Twin Cities family to build a foundation for a much longer time.
A group of players including C.J. Ham, K.J. Osborn, D.J. Wonnum, and Mackensie Alexander, as well as former Vikings player and executive Scott Studwell, assisted the folks from Habitat for Humanity in building a brand new home for Gretchen Leininger. Gretchen is a single mother of a daughter who has battled both leukemia and renal cell carcinoma, both of which have required extensive treatments and surgeries that have made it difficult for her to find a place to call home.
Alexander knows first-hand how important the work that Habitat for Humanity does in a community, as he was raised in a home built by the charity when he was growing up in Naples, Florida.
“Habitat gave my parents an opportunity to move in and gain ownership of a home, the same as it did with Gretchen’s family now,” Alexander said. “My community came together to help out, just as we’re doing now.
“It’s an important organization that we’re helping,” Alexander added. “It’s big time, and it gives me a lot of memories, honestly.”
In addition to the home, Ham gave Gretchen and her mother two tickets to attend a Vikings home game later this season, and Alexander presented the family with custom jerseys before getting a tour of the home. The Leininger family expects to move into the home early next year.
We often talk about whether or not members of the Vikings are “one of us,” but very few of the team’s players embody that more than star wide receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen. . .and we all know this story. . .grew up in Detroit Lakes, played football at Minnesota State on a $500 scholarship, and eventually worked his way up from the Vikings’ practice squad to become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
He hasn’t forgotten his roots, however, or how much Minnesota high school football meant to him. So, through the Thielen Foundation, Adam and his wife Caitlin made a big contribution to a Twin Cities-area high school to brighten up the team’s prospects.
The high school field at Brooklyn Center lost its lighting because of a power outage two years ago. Because of Thielen’s contribution, last month the Centaurs got to experience the “Friday Night Lights” for the first time in over two years, as the Thielen Foundation helped to restore the lights at their football field.
Thielen talked about exactly what his high school football experience meant to him and what it was so important to him to make this happen for the Brooklyn Center team.
“You think about those Friday night lights — those are some of the greatest memories I have of my football career,” he said. “I have some great memories in the NFL, but the biggest ones that come to mind are being in front of your community and the people you know that have supported you since you were little. I know Caitlin has memories of being at games and supporting the football team and playing soccer under the lights. It really drove us to want to do this.”
The Centaurs definitely weren’t nervous to play under the lights, as they took down the Patrick Henry Patriots by a final score of 36-20 in their first home night game in two years.
The Minnesota Vikings have long been involved in outstanding charitable works in the Twin Cities communities, but it seems like there has been an even greater emphasis placed on it since the Wilf family purchased the team back in 2005. It’s always great to see stories about how the players that we cheer for on Sunday afternoons are just as concerned about their local communities as we are, and to see them actually getting out there and doing things to make things better for everyone else. They’re likely inspiring others to get out and do these sorts of good works as well.
We will continue to bring you the stories of the good things that the Vikings are doing off the field as well as on it, and we hope that these sorts of things will bring a smile to your face during times like this when, quite frankly, we can all use a little bit of a lift.