Holiday events looked different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn't stop the Vikings from making a difference.
From video calls with "adopted" families to meal packing and toy donations, below are some of the ways players got creative and gave back to the Twin Cities community this holiday season.
Thielen Foundation sponsors families through The Salvation Army
Through the Thielen Foundation, Adam and his wife, Caitlin, along with sons Asher and Hudson, sponsored five St. Paul-area families for the holidays.
Through the Thielen Foundation, Adam Thielen and his family partnered with The Salvation Army to adopt local families this holiday season.
The Thielens have a strong partnership with The Salvation Army and continued their holiday tradition of "adopting" families enrolled in the organization's Pathway of Hope program, which helps individuals set – and reach – goals such as stable housing and training for new careers.
Due to this year's pandemic and schools largely relying on distance-learning, the families specifically are in need of computers. None of the families previously owned computers, and if their school district had issued a computer, it is only one that must be shared by the entire household. In response to the need, Microsoft generously donated one computer to each of the five families.
Four of the five families adopted by the Thielens this season involve single mothers of anywhere from one to seven children. Ages of the young people range from 2 years to 21 years old.
"For Cait and I, it's our favorite thing to do, honestly," Adam told Twin Cities media members on Tuesday. "One of our favorite events we do through our foundation is to provide some type of joy [during the holidays] for some families going through a rough time. The best thing about it is being partnered with The Salvation Army – they do a great job of finding these families that not only need it, but are doing everything they can to get out of those situations and … are working hard, and those are the families we love to help.
"We bring our boys with us just to be able to show how important it is to give back in the holiday season."
In addition to providing Christmas gifts for each family, Thielen Foundation will be donating $5,000-plus for bills throughout the year as needs such as rent, utilities and medical expenses arise.
C.J. Ham continues connection with Boys & Girls Clubs
For the third consecutive season, C.J. Ham and his wife, Stephanie, along with daughters Skylar and Stella, partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs to "adopt" a family for the holidays.
The Hams this year purchased, wrapped and delivered numerous gifts for the Collins family, which has been a part of the Southside Village Club for four years.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the families couldn't spend time in-person together, but the Hams connected virtually with Deshane Collins and his three sons, Jerimiah (15), Zachariah (13) and Isaiah (8), who tragically lost their mother Jennifer four months ago. They also were joined on the call by Jennifer's mother and sister.
While Deshane, a chef by trade, is doing all he can to keep his family moving in the right direction, the pain of losing Jennifer has been extremely difficult.
"We're very happy we're able to help you guys out this year, and hopefully you guys get all the things that you wanted," C.J. told the family. "Thank you for allowing us to do that for you."
Deshane called the Hams' generous gesture a true blessing during the holidays.
"Dealing with the tragedy of the loss of their mother … we're so grateful to have people who are blessed that can help us during this traumatic time," Deshane said.
"I can't explain my gratitude. God bless you and your family. Much love to you guys and to the Minnesota Vikings," he added. "My family and I really appreciate it. We can't say 'Thank you' enough."
C.J. shared with the family about the passing of his own mother, Tina, from pancreatic cancer six months ago.
"I can empathize with y'all in losing someone that's very, very close to you, and I don't wish that upon anybody. Y'all stay strong. You all know that you are loved, and we definitely love you guys, too," C.J. said. "We just hope that we can help bring some joy to you in this year. It's been a tough year for all of us."
Zachariah, or "Big Z" as his dad called him, asked C.J. about his journey to the NFL and said it's his dream to one day play for the Vikings.
"That was my dream growing up, too, and now I'm doing it," said C.J., a Duluth native. "So don't let anybody tell you that you can't."
"Whatever you do – do it with a full heart, man, and you'll succeed," he added.
Sean Mannion 'adopts' family
Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion and his wife, Megan, along with young daughters Sawyer and Lennon, also "adopted" a Boys & Girls Clubs family from the Little Earth location. Sean signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2019, and he and Megan feel strongly about giving back to the community they call home.
The Mannions delivered gifts to the club last week and later met virtually with Roxanne and her five children: Nana (19), Ogi (17), Waabi (15), William (13) and Rolland (12).
"Happy Halloween!" Sawyer greeted the family, unintentionally breaking the ice and prompting warm laughter from both sides of the video call.
Megan and Sean visited with the family about being Vikings fans and their involvement with the Little Earth Boys & Girls Club.
Sean also apologized for one gift, a requested Roku, that had come partially unwrapped in the bed of his truck en route to deliver.
"It's probably a little obvious what it is," he quipped.
"We hope you enjoy all of it," Sean added. "Have a very Merry Christmas."
Anthony Barr partners with Jeremiah Program to pack meals
Anthony Barr has been on Injured Reserve since Week 3, but he isn't staying on the sidelines when it comes to community work.
The Vikings linebacker has a longstanding relationship with Jeremiah Program, which supports single mothers and their children. Earlier this month, Barr partnered with the Minneapolis nonprofit to pack meals for local families in need.
"I kind of see myself in these kids, when I was, not too long ago, in the same position. And I see my mom in the moms there, working hard to better themselves," Barr said earlier about the program. "It's a natural fit. I grew up with a big family, a lot of kids around, so I know how to interact in that arena."
Barr typically hosts a holiday party for Jeremiah Program families, but pandemic protocols prohibited the in-person gathering. Despite missing the usual interactions, he was grateful for the opportunity to still make an impact.
December's food-packing event occurred one month after Barr joined forces with the Vikings to surprise the nonprofit with a $30,000 donation.
Kendricks gives back with help of teammates
Eric Kendricks, who was recently announced as the Vikings nominee for the 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year, has been extra intentional throughout the pandemic to make differences in various ways despite being unable to make in-person appearances.
Earlier this year, Kendricks and his girlfriend, Ally, spoke at a youth mental health treatment center and shelter in Anoka, Minnesota. They were impacted by their experience and desired to stay connected.
"Mental health is something extremely close to my heart, and I really wanted to make the holidays special for the staff and kids," Ally said.
Kendricks and Ally joined forces with Vikings teammates Anthony Harris, Eric Wilson, Mike Hughes, C.J. Ham and Aviante Collins, along with their significant others, who donated numerous Christmas gifts that were delivered to the center this week. The Mall of America Athleta store also contributed.
Kyle Rudolph provides 'Holiday Huddle' boxes for children's hospital patients
Kyle Rudolph and his wife Jordan have a longstanding relationship with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, where they built Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, a space for patients and their family members to enjoy during hospital stays.
Kyle and Jordan annually host multiple "Holiday Huddle" parties at the hospital, during which they personally spend time with young patients in addition to visits they make throughout the year. Due to the pandemic, Holiday Huddle parties and the Rudolphs' beloved "Trip to the North Pole" were unable to be held.
That doesn't mean the Rudolphs didn't help bring holiday spirit, though. Kyle and Jordan this month sent custom Holiday Huddle boxes filled with various goodies and crafts to the children's hospital patients.
Vikings & KFAN Team Up with Fleet Farm for Toys for Tots Drive
As the saying goes, the show must go on.
Despite the inability of KFAN and the Vikings to hold their all-day, in-person Toys for Tots drive at Fleet Farm, the organizations got creative and joined forces to make sure area youth still received a special Christmas.
From Dec. 7-12, Vikings fans donated a record-number of toys (35 pallets!) across five metro-area Fleet Farm stores. Ham, along with Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson, joined KFAN broadcasts throughout the week to help promote the Toys for Tots initiative driven by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Fans who donated and used #VikesToysForTots on social media platforms were eligible to win autographed Vikings items and Fleet Farm gift cards.
Special Delivery … of Cookies
U.S. Bank and the Vikings sent a sign of support to frontline health care workers this week, ordering 1,000 cookies from nonprofit Cookie Cart that were delivered to two North Memorial Health Hospitals.
The Vikings and U.S. Bank sent a sign of support to frontline health care workers, ordering 1,000 cookies that were delivered to two local hospitals.
In addition to providing a pick-me-up for workers who are courageously facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the donation helped Cookie Cart's continued mission of providing first job experiences and leadership training to teens in its bakery.