OAKDALE, Minn. — Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt recently hosted teammates and fans, Vikings cheerleaders and mascot Viktor for the 20th annual celebrity bowling night to benefit the Vikings Children's Fund.
Loadholt envisioned throwing strikes at PINZ Entertainment Center on Monday, but a season-ending pectoral injury the day before prevented him from taking aim. Loadholt, however, enjoyed the opportunities that he and teammates had to personally interact with fans.
Loadholt put signature touches on the night by supplying teammates with a camouflage print T-shirt and fans with jersey T-shirts. It was his first time hosting the event, but Loadholt has participated all six seasons since he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
"It's an opportunity to raise money for the Vikings Children's Fund," Loadholt said. "It's a great fund that the Vikings have going and something I've been involved with since I got here. I saw the older guys doing the event and it's always great to get involved with the Children's Fund and raise so much money for it."
Loadholt said he admired the way Pat Williams hosted the event in his rookie season and made a goal of becoming a host of the event. He picked out the desert camo print in honor of his father, who served 22 years in the U.S. Army.
Right guard Brandon Fusco, who has been on the mend since Week 3 because of an injury similar to Loadholt's, wore a camo baseball hat to go with the shirt and said he enjoyed supporting the charity event.
"It's a great event, my first time here," Fusco said. "I've heard a lot about it and wanted to come out and support it. I'm a big fan of Phil's and play next to him. I'm just glad to be here in support and to help out any way I can."
Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Charlie Johnson, Xavier Rhodes, Robert Blanton, Josh Robinson, Jasper Brinkley, Gerald Hodges, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, Chase Ford and Mike Harris also attended.
Also unable to bowl, Fusco scouted the competition among teammates for future years and locked in on left guard Charlie Johnson.
"It's hard to say after me. I'd say Charlie Johnson," Fusco said. "He's a pretty good bowler. When I'm healthy, I know my challenge is going to be Charlie Johnson. He's a big meathead when he throws the ball. I'm actually a little more finesse, a little curve and more control. He likes to sling it down there."
Charlie Johnson said he was in a bowling league earlier in his NFL career while in Indianapolis.
"It's fun. You get the fan interaction, and bowling is something, where a lot of guys I know that play football have bowled before and like it, so when you put the two together, it's just a good combination," he said. "You get a great turnout from guys that are on the team, a great turnout from fans and everybody who wants to be here so it's just great overall."
Vikings Children's Fund Coordinator Patrick Leopold said Loadholt did a great job leading the charge for this year's bowling event and stayed committed despite the injury.
"We've been doing this event for 20 years to benefit the Vikings Children's Fund," Leopold said. "We're very fortunate that we've got a strong locker room. This year we had Phil Loadholt step up to the plate. He said he'd do a great job and he has. We have a terrific group of Vikings players here and we're hoping to raise a lot of money for the Vikings Children's Fund," which he described as a "miniature version of the United Way."
"It's the Vikings team foundation, and we typically raise money through special events, corporate-sponsored programs and all the things we have throughout the year and football season," Leopold said. "We typically raise a half million dollars that gets out in the community on a grant request basis."
The Vikings Children's Fund was established in 1978 and awards about half a million dollars each year through grants that are funded by special events and corporate sponsorships. Verizon and Total Luxury Limousine sponsored the sold-out bowling event.
Since inception of the fund, more than $10 million has been given back to the community, with more than $5 million going to the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics to fight childhood disease. More than 300 child-related organizations, including nearly 80 in 2013, have received support from the fund.