MINNEAPOLIS – Adam Thielen represents his home state well on the football field, and he's passionate about giving back off of it.
Adam, his wife Caitlin and their son, Asher, on Tuesday officially launched the Thielen Foundation, through which they aim to make a difference in the Twin Cities Community.
The Thielens announced the foundation's first partnership with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and specifically the Pediatric Behavioral Health unit, the region's largest and most comprehensive unit of its kind.
As the Thielen Foundation's first major gift, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's hospital was presented with a $100,000 donation for the behavioral health unit, which provides in-patient and out-patient services for youth.
Adam called the foundation a longtime dream of his and Caitlin's.
"Both of us are from Minnesota, grew up in Minnesota communities and are just so excited to give back to a place that has been so big in our lives," Adam said.
The Detroit Lakes native later stressed the importance of embarking on the philanthropic endeavor as a family.
"This wasn't just what I wanted to do or what Caitlin wanted to do; it's what we both wanted to do," Adam said. "And it took a lot of time. It wasn't just something that we thought of overnight – there are a lot of people behind the scenes who have done a lot of work, and just making sure that it's something we both feel strongly about and feel we both can help with [was important]."
Mandy Seymour, Senior Director of Behavioral Health Services at M Health and Fairview, explained that while it's impossible to list the full breadth of conditions that are treated, young patients may be hospitalized for crisis stabilization related to symptoms that include depression, suicidality, psychosis and chemical dependency, among many others.
Seymour said that behavioral health can sometimes be an area overlooked philanthropically, so she was especially touched by Adam and Caitlin's focused passion.
"It's really exciting," Seymour said. "For them to come in and identify that an area like behavioral health services, that is often stigmatized, needed support and philanthropy, is so amazing because it's going to go beyond their gift. It will really set a path, I hope, for awareness for others."
Vikings Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix was on-hand for the foundation launch and spoke about the significance of the Thielens' commitment.
"I'm honored to be here on this special day to represent the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have longstanding ties to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, over three decades, via our Vikings Children's Fund, which supported research and programming initiatives; to the Vikings Foundation and the Wilf Ownership Group, which continue to make a positive impact on patients and their families," LaCroix said. "But just as important as the organization's efforts are the Vikings players who have made and continue making extraordinary commitments of their personal time and talents to provide hope and healing for all who enter these doors.
"[Adam and Caitlin] are moving the chains to make a difference in lives of children in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest," LaCroix continued. "We have always been impressed by Adam's dedication to excellence on and off the field, and today the Thielen family is making an even bigger commitment to the community."
Tuesday's event brought full-circle a concept that really was set in motion five years ago.
Adam recalled his first visit to the children's hospital as a rookie in 2013 and the impact it made on him at that time.
"That's a big reason why we're here today," Adam said. "That first visit, coming here and seeing … these kids who have such tough circumstances, and yet you're putting smiles on their faces [just by] having fun with them and talking with them, hanging out. That's really why we're here."
The Thielen Foundation's mission will be to create programs that serve, educate and inspire those in need, specifically focusing on educating and empowering at-risk youth. Adam and Caitlin committed to making personal visits to patients, participating in hospital events and providing foundation-branded recreation and personal comfort items.
Adam and Caitlin revealed a first initiative in which they will be delivered custom-made, Woodchuck USA journals to patients as a tool to help facilitate their path to recovery and wellness.
Caitlin added that she was moved by the impact of wellness programming and especially the way that yoga can improve calmness and wellbeing.
"As our partnership grows with Masonic Children's Hospital, I hope to get involved with yoga programming and help create educational materials to aid in instruction as well as provide Thielen Foundation yoga mats and resources to make sure every patient has access to this incredible wellness tool," Caitlin said.
Adam also emphasized the longstanding connection between the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and the Vikings organization.
He referenced the efforts several years ago of Steve Hutchinson and John Sullivan, followed by the involvement of former linebacker Chad Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation and Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, which was opened by the Vikings tight end last winter.
"[We hope to] make the most impact as possible and finding the right areas to do that," Adam said. "I think there's easy ways to make an impact and sometimes there's tougher ways, and it's making sure you're doing things that maybe are out of your comfort zone but making the biggest impact you can."
Added Adam: "That's why we felt so strongly about doing this now, because we know this is the time we feel like we can make a bigger impact, while I'm still playing and still have that platform.