But the charity’s fortunes may be slowly changing. Dylan Vicha, the charity’s co-founder and a friend of Allen’s since high school, said General Mills has agreed to highlight the wounded veterans charity on cereal boxes, and Allen said it will be part of the company’s new “Serving More Than Nutrition” campaign.
The charity ended 2012 having raised $750,000 and the Vikings, said Vicha, will be sending a camera crew to film work on two of the homes, one in Luverne, Minn., and the other near St. Bonifacius. Wells Fargo, meanwhile, gave the charity a grant to remodel one home, had its employees volunteer to help and has donated $30,000 at Allen’s golf tournaments.
The job now, Allen said in an interview last month, is to “expand our brand, and really reach out to more corporate-level sponsors.”
Even the new Vikings community calendar, released earlier this year to document the team’s charitable commitments, lauded Allen’s nonprofit work. “No NFL player embraces each day in the NFL more than Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen,” the team stated. “However, Allen’s passion is helping wounded service members.”
Allen’s foundation has joined a crowded field of charities — with names such as Operation Homefront and the Wounded Heroes Foundation — hoping to help wounded veterans. Several of them thus far appear to have better track records.
The Military Warriors Support Foundation, founded in 2007 and based in San Antonio, helps Iraq and Afghanistan combat wounded veterans obtain mortgage-free housing and had $2.3 million in revenue after its first two years. “We grew within a year tremendously,” said Andrea Dellinger, a foundation senior director. The charity, started by a retired three-star Army general, said it has as of late last year obtained homes for 241 veterans in 28 states.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, which recently received a state award for helping veterans, last year helped 20 veterans in Minnesota with modest home remodeling projects that included making homes handicapped accessible. “It’s all repair work, so it’s either building accessibility ramps or doing repair projects,” said Matt Haugen, a Habitat for Humanity spokesman, who said the nonprofit has spent roughly $100,000 on the projects.
One of the latest recipients of Allen’s generosity will be 24-year-old Colin Faust, a former Marine Corps sergeant who lost his left leg and has no feeling in much of his right leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in October 2010. “I can’t even count how many surgeries he had,” said Sonja, his mother, who lives in Waconia.
Faust’s home near St. Bonifacius will be the charity’s first attempt to build a new home — the others have been remodeling projects. Faust, a longtime Vikings fan, said Allen called him, thanked him for his military service and met him on the land he bought for the home. “We sat there, and hung out for about three hours,” Faust said.
Allen’s penchant for glitz has extended to his charity work.
Joshua Bullis, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, said the federal government provided roughly $168,000 that enabled him to buy a home in Arizona and make it handicapped accessible. But Allen’s charity, said Bullis, donated roughly $50,000 that bought “all the cool stuff.”
Said Bullis: “They put a spa in the back yard. They put a grill in the back yard — a built-in grill — [and] TVs everywhere, nice ‘surround sound’ for football.”
Bullis’ girlfriend, Tory Walker, was likewise effusive in her praise of Allen. “Jared amped it up for us,” she said.
Matt Scharping, who raises competition bulls in Minnesota, calls his fundraising for Allen’s charity “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” Scharping gave Allen half interest in a bull — Allen and his wife quickly named it “Admiral Bull” — with the proceeds going to the charity.
“He has his priorities straight,” Scharping said of Allen. “Honestly, he’s just a big cowboy.”