A year after launching a program to provide athletic and academic support for Brooklyn Center High School, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and his wife, Caitlin, are using their foundation to help areas of Minneapolis most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing this spring.
The Thielen Foundation announced Thursday it will provide more than $75,000 in cash and equipment to Cooper High School in New Hope, the Northside Impact Fund and Urban Ventures, while beginning a campaign to provide all three organizations with additional money to finish capital projects and continue existing programs.
“We’re trying to make change, but we believe we can make big change through sport,” Thielen said. “What I mean by that is providing these kids resources, opportunities to get out and really learn some great things that you learn from sport.”
The foundation helped Cooper High School renovate its weight room, much as it did for Brooklyn Center a year ago. This summer, Thielen’s group provided funds to support Minneapolis North High School athletics and two other North Side athletic programs (the Heritage Youth Sports Association and Above The Rim Foundation). The foundation also gave 25 athletes from the Northside Commons Park youth football program a $150 gift card to Scheels, new cleats and hydration products.
The work with Urban Ventures on Minneapolis’ South Side will go to support youth soccer and basketball leagues in the Phillips neighborhood; the foundation also purchased gift cards to small businesses along Lake Street that were damaged after Floyd’s death on May 25.
“They specifically target a very small area, and that was one of the things we thought was really cool: they kind of have a small target so they can make a big impact,” Thielen said. “It felt like God had kind of guided us to them, because it was very in line with our vision and foundation. We’re excited to walk alongside them and help where we can.”
The Thielens’ work with Brooklyn Center a year ago was something of a trial program; their foundation provided money to renovate the Centaurs’ weight room and set up a $1,000 scholarship for an athlete on each of the school’s varsity teams. At that time, they spoke of an interest in expanding to other schools and programs, unsure what that would look like in the coming years.
This year meant a chance to serve communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus or borne a heavy economic toll following this spring’s riots. Going forward, Thielen remains open to the ways the foundation’s new partnerships could grow.
“If you had told me these partnerships would happen three years ago, when we set up our foundation, I would have had no idea,” he said. “The more we can help, we’re definitely up for that. But we want to make sure we do it right and actually make change, not just have a couple pictures and talk about it. We want to make sure we do it right.”