New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead made good on his promise to come to the “Bold North” on Friday when he showed up at Children’s Minnesota hospital to hand off a $221,000 check that largely came from generous Vikings’ fans who donated to the kicker’s foundation.
But there was one very necessary stop Morstead made before he flew to Minneapolis.
“I bought my first winter coat,” he said during an interview Friday at the Mall of America. “Never had one. Never needed one.”
Morstead’s return to Minnesota came three weeks after his team suffered a heartbreaking loss on the last play of the Jan. 14 Divisional Playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Moreover, the punter suffered a rib injury in the game and is still on the mend.
The game ended with the injured Morstead lining up for a mandatory extra point. It was meaningless in terms of the Vikings’ 29-24 victory, but his act of sportsmanship turned out to be a huge win for his foundation, which focuses on fighting pediatric cancer and supporting work done by Child Life specialists.
In the week following the game, legions of Vikings’ fans paid the kicker back in grand style, donating $221,143 to the foundation called What You Give Will Grow. He was so impressed he decided to give the money back.
“This is from 600 Minnesotians; I don’t think I said that right,” Morstead joked as he presented the check to Children’s Hospital staff. “This is from Skol Nation.”
That quip drew a smile from Marcus Sherels, who was on hand for the presentation. Morstead injured his ribs trying to tackle the Vikings punt returner.
The outpouring has helped slightly ease the pain of the season-ending loss, said Morstead, who still can’t get over the generosity shown him by fans of the opposing team.
“I’m blown away. I keep hearing Minnesota nice. I get it now,” he said. “This is a remarkable thing to see happen.”
It all started with a Vikings fan who suggested fans contribute to What You Give Will Grow. Soon money poured in and the online effort fast became the national feel-good story of the week. The campaign generated more than 1,300 news articles and much needed attention Child Life programs.
“We had more attention about Child Life in the past three weeks than we did in the past five years,” Morstead said.
The programs, which reduce stress through play, relaxation and special events and activities, are not reimbursed by health insurance. Hospitals cover the costs through donations.
“This is an amazing expression of generosity,” said Children’s Minnesota President and Chief Operating Officer Marc Gorelock. “Your devotion and passion to this cause is incredible. We are now on the same team making a difference for kids. It is going to a great cause.”
The inspiration to name What You Give Will Grow came from a coach he had during his senior year at Southern Methodist University. The coach had a saying, “What you give will grow, what you keep you will lose.” With that motto, Morstead’s foundation has given away $2.7 million since its inception in 2012.
Morstead ended his day by meeting a fourth-grade class from Vikings’ receiver Adam Thielen’s hometown of Detroit Lakes. The students pooled $64 and gave it to the foundation, and they sent the punter a video.
“They were inspired to give back,” Morstead said. “It’s very humbling.”