SAINT PAUL, Minn. –Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs have a chemistry on the field. The quarterback and receiver were on the same wavelength Thursday, too – but this time as artists.
Bridgewater and Diggs participated in the 11th annual Playground Build partnership between the Vikings, The Toro Company and KaBOOM! Bridgewater and the receivers were assigned to the "painting pavers" group, and the project sparked a good-natured competition between the two teammates, whose finished products looked quite similar.
"We were both on the same page – we both saw the same vision," Bridgewater said, smiling. "Mine just turned out better."
"I have the best painting out here," Diggs said. "I have a car, I have trees, I have clouds, I have a sun. I have everything you'd need to have a great time."
Diggs' work of art mirrored the near-perfect day the Vikings and volunteers had for the build. More than 200 volunteers (not counting players and coaches0 gathered under sunny skies and temps in the mid-60s to assemble a playground for the Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus Lower School.
"I think the word that comes to mind is 'awe,' " said Principal Bryan Bass. "I'm in awe of so many people smiling, working hard to build this play space for our school community as well as our neighboring community. This is a really important thing. I'm just proud to be a part of so many people prioritizing this."
The one-day project was an all-hands-on-deck effort and was completed without machines or power tools. Volunteers were assigned to a number of different stations, including the paver painting, building playground components, moving mulch and mixing and pouring concrete – 30,000 pounds of it.
"It's a pleasure to be out here," said Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren. "[It's great] whenever you get a chance to come together as a community to do something special for kids.
"I think whenever you can come together and show them that they are special, that they are smart, that they do have a bright future and that they are our future, it really is a special day," Warren added.
On Thursday, Vikings players and coaches helped build a playground at Linwood Monroe Elementary in St. Paul.
Plenty of energy surrounded the build, fueled by a disc jockey on site in addition to custom songs performed by groups of second-graders, third-graders and kindergartners throughout the day.
"The meat of the day was fantastic and exciting, but when the students that are going to be playing on this playground in two days came out and starting singing and getting excited, it just elevated everybody's energy to continue this hard work and get the playground built today," said Judson McNeil, President of the Toro Foundation and Manager of Toro Giving.
A group of 125 players, coaches and trainers joined the volunteers at the school following an organized team activity practice at Winter Park. In addition to the painters, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo were put to work finishing a playground component, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison hauled loads of mulch and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer scaled to the top of the pile to rake mulch onto the tarps. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who participated in the first playground build in 2006, enjoyed his 11th event while adding some artwork to the school's sidewalk for students.
"It's always a fun environment," Greenway said. "The Vikings do such a great job of coming out and bringing out the whole organization, not just the players. I mean, there's everyone here from upper management, to admins, to players and personnel groups. It's nice to get everybody involved and get out to a community like this to make a difference, a long-term difference. It's going to be part of this community for a long time, and it's always fun to play a role."
Bridgewater said Thursday marked the best of the three builds he's been a part of – and not just because of his painting.
"It's great weather and a great turnout," Bridgewater said. "It's always fun to come out here with NFL Play 60 and try to get these kids to get out and be active for 60 minutes a day.
"It's great to have some of the alumni here," Bridgewater added. "It's a great atmosphere, and I'm glad to be here."
A number of former Vikings joined the build as well, including Scott Studwell, who guided the concrete into holes 4 feet deep to secure the playground structure. Hall of Famers Alan Page and Mick Tingelhoff joined Dave Osborn, Bob Lurtsema and Pete Bercich at the site.
"I think it says a lot about the Vikings, or any organization," Page said. "The people that live in this community ultimately are the ones that support the Vikings. To have them show that it's more than just a one-way proposition is pretty important."
Since the Vikings partnered with Toro in 2006 to create the annual Vikings Playground Build, almost 30,000 children in the Twin Cities community have benefited from play spaces constructed by the team along with volunteers. The event continues to be a favorite for Vikings staff members and players, including Diggs … even if he did feel that Bridgewater copied his creative inspiration.
"It's been awesome," Diggs said. "Coming together and doing something for a great cause always gives you a good feeling – especially when it comes to doing it for kids."