The Vikings surprised Sam Heras with a new car for his 18th birthday Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Heras was being honored on the field as a Hometown Hero when the public address announcer said the Vikings would be presenting him with a “very special birthday gift” -- and a 2016 Ford Focus drove out of the tunnel.
The Vikings and their sponsors also gifted Heras a $250 gas card and $500 for groceries.
Heras lost both of his parents to health-related deaths in past two years and was forced to leave the Irondale football team to find work and pay bills. He has been using public transportation to get to work every day.
“I want to look at the future as being good. I never want to look at as being bad,” Heras said in a video interview played Sunday during the game. “You can’t be angry and sad you’re whole life. You need to be happy.”
Irondale football coach Ben Fuller said “No matter what’s happening, Sam is going to be positive. That’s what makes him a Hometown Hero. He’s going to keep fighting and he represents all those people that do that on a day-to-day basis without getting recognized for it.”
A GoFundMe account for Heras was started in October with a goal of $5,000 and has raised nearly $51,000 as of Monday.
The account says Heras plans to use some of the money to buy a reliable car to make his commute to school and work easier, but the Vikings covered that Sunday.
Heras has plans after high school to pursue a nursing program or culinary school. He hopes to “pay it forward” one day to someone in a similar situation.