The Vikings will launch a new, hands-on charitable foundation devoted to the health, well-being and education of Minnesota's children and teens.
One of the fledging foundation's first ventures will be a food truck that will serve nutritious meals to needy children.
The Wilf family and the Vikings have made an initial $1 million donation to get the foundation and the food truck rolling.
Vikings owner and President Mark Wilf and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren are expected to formally announce the creation of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation Wednesday morning.
It will focus on childhood hunger, obesity, physical fitness and eliminating Minnesota's educational achievement gap where white students, as a whole, outperform students of color on standardized tests and high school graduation rates.
"Due to poor nutrition and physical inactivity, this is the first generation tracking to have a shorter life expectancy than their parent generation," Warren said. "Additionally, Minnesota has one of the highest educational achievement gaps in the nation, so we have a real opportunity to take a new approach to charitable work in these areas, one that goes beyond raising and donating funds and incorporates engaging programs to make a difference in this community."
The new foundation will replace the team's existing charity, called the Vikings Children's Fund, which was created in 1978. It has given away $12 million to youth services including research grants at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics, donations to Second Harvest Heartland and Kaboom, a nonprofit that builds new playgrounds.
The new Vikings Foundation will go beyond writing checks to existing charities and will create and manage its own charitable programing, including the food truck. Vikings staff and players will work "arm and arm" with members of the community to create significant and tangible results, said Brett Taber, Vikings staffer and executive director of the new foundation.
"The entire Minnesota Vikings organization is excited about this opportunity to broaden its engagement and deepen its impact within the Minnesota community," Taber said.
The new foundation will also make strategic grants. Fewer entities will get more money to amplify their impact. Recipients will need to meet more stringent reporting requirements to ensure that they're using the money appropriately and efficiently, Taber said.
Vikings staff will manage the foundation activities to "ensure a focused partnership with the team." Foundation initiatives will at times provide children access to Vikings facilities and its athletes.
"We with the Vikings organization and the Wilf family truly believe we have the fiduciary responsibility to make the Twin Cities and the entire state of Minnesota a better place to live for everyone, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, creed, financial position, but especially for individuals who are dealing with tough times," Warren said.
The foundation will raise money in the community and among fans.
Fifty local fifth- and sixth-graders will be present at the foundation's unveiling at Winter Park Wednesday. Students will eat lunch, participate in a physical activity clinic and wellness program with Vikings staff, watch practice and meet the team. Participating students will get free backpacks filled with school supplies.
Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804