After reading Jon Tevlin’s May 8 column (“Kluwe made an impact on, off the field”), I certainly agree about former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s positive effect on the community. But I question Tevlin’s assumptions about other players’ community involvement.
Tevlin indicates that the majority of players participate in charitable causes only by letting an organization “use the player’s name, or agreeing to the occasional photo op.” He adds: “Rare is the pro athlete who commits real time, or heaven forbid money, to the charity or issue.”
As it relates to the Vikings, neither of those comments has merit. We are fortunate to have individuals throughout the organization, including numerous players, who are committed to giving time and/or money to various causes in our community.
Let me provide a few facts about the team’s community outreach:
• Player participation: In six of the last seven years, the Vikings have had 100 percent participation in the community-outreach program. It is a point of emphasis from the Wilf ownership and Coach Leslie Frazier that all of our players, coaches and front-office staff get involved in the community.
• Personal foundations and causes: Various players have these, including Chad Greenway (Lead the Way Foundation), Jared Allen (Homes for Wounded Warriors Foundation), Adrian Peterson (All-Day Foundation), Erin Henderson (Erin Henderson’s Foundation 50) and John Sullivan (University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital). General manager Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski also host an annual Adoption Family Fun Fest for families from the African American Adoption Agency and Children’s Home Society, while Frazier is heavily involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and All-Pro Dad.
• Vikings Children’s Fund: Since 1978, the VCF has donated nearly $10 million dollars to helping children and families in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Since the Wilfs took ownership of the team in 2005, the contributions have increased by nearly 90 percent and now average approximately $465,000 annually (more than $3.8 million total).
• Annual Playground Build: This has been an annual tradition since 2006. The team has replaced playgrounds at elementary schools serving more than 3,000 students, and will complete its eighth build at the end of this month.
• Summer Lunch Program: The Vikings partner with Second Harvest Heartland to help feed underserved children during the summer months when these children are not able to receive free or reduced-price lunches through the schools. Over the last three summers, the Vikings have helped provide nearly 3 million meals to underserved children.
• Vikings Fitness Playbook: Last year, the team partnered with the Amplatz Children’s Hospital to kick off a campaign to research childhood obesity. That partnership aligns with the team’s other “Play 60” initiatives, which bring assemblies to elementary schools throughout the state.
• Vikings Youth Football Program: The team provides free clinics every year, selects 10 high school coaches of the week and puts together an annual all-state team to be recognized during a Vikings game. Through the NFL Grassroots program, the team has also contributed $650,000 to replace or repair four area football fields.
• Saturday Special Guests: The Vikings invite individuals facing a challenging time in their lives to a private Saturday practice, followed by a meet-and-greet with the team. Visits include children from Amplatz, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and others.
Perhaps Tevlin will make an effort to visit Winter Park, where we can introduce him to a number of our players. Maybe then he will better understand the passion that Vikings players have for giving back and the significant impact that their efforts — and those of the entire organization — have on our community.
Jeff Anderson is director of corporate communications for the Minnesota Vikings.