MINNEAPOLIS – The weather outside was frightful, but the music was oh-so delightful.
Vikings safety Camryn Bynum and practice squad receiver Blake Proehl spent part of their off day last week with young people at M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital.
Bynum and Proehl, along with friends Robert Watson and Kon Nagy, played and sang holiday tunes from the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio, starting with a special rendition of Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" – a personal favorite of Proehl's.
The performance was live-streamed to TVs throughout the hospital, and patients could call or text in song requests from their rooms.
"The gift of music is life-changing for a lot of people," Bynum said. "I know I have a song that I hear now and have a childhood memory linked to that song, so this might be something for them to remember forever and bring them joy when they hear a specific song. So it's just creating memories and being able to bless other people with the gift of music."
Bynum explained that their musical group came along entirely by chance during his first season in Minnesota. While searching for a car wash one day to clean off winter salt, Bynum passed by Piano World in Eden Prairie. The safety had begun learning to play and opted to purchase a piano as an upgrade to his electric keyboard, which he then gifted to a Twin Cities family.
Bynum met Watson, a Piano World employee who gave him additional lessons on the piano and then on a base guitar, which Bynum played at the hospital.
"We ended up becoming really good friends," Bynum said of Watson.
Proehl, meanwhile, had been discovering his own musical talent and played with Nagy. The duo got together with Bynum and Watson to play some tunes, and the rest was history.
"I'm so new to singing in general, so to be able to come here and sing on a livestream, especially for the kids, it is a challenge for us, but it's a lot of fun," Proehl said. "It means the world to us just to be able to come over here and put a smile on someone's face, no matter their age. It's just really, really special for us. It definitely makes my whole holiday season to hear their voices, and I'm really excited to go meet some of them."
View photos of S Camryn Bynum and WR Blake Proehl performing holiday sing-a-longs at M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital.
Joining the foursome in the studio was Greta Yates, a music therapist at the hospital.
They played and sang together for quite some time, fielding requests for everything from "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas."
The unique holiday event held special significance for Proehl, who learned firsthand while rehabbing a serious knee injury the healing benefits of music.
"I found my voice through my injury, in a time where I felt like I didn't know my purpose and where I was headed. I didn't know if I'd ever be able to run again," Proehl said. "Music was such a healing part of my journey, so I think [it can be a similar realization] for these kids … whether it's singing a song, playing a guitar, music in general is just a gift."
Following the music portion of the afternoon, Proehl and Bynum met some of the hospital's patients in-person.
Proehl made individual room visits to young people facing various medical challenges, and Bynum met with a group in the mental health and behavioral unit. He spent more than 30 minutes just hanging out, answering questions about football and life, before autographing a football for each patient.
Whether speaking to patients struggling with mental health or playing music for the virtual sing-along, Bynum and Proehl hope they made an impact.
"It's just cool to be able to show we're doing multiple things. Obviously we're both football players, but the fact that we're here doing something we love off the field, playing music, and enjoy it as much as we do," Bynum said, "I think it shows people there's a gift in football, there's a gift in music, and you can find fun and enjoy doing anything."
Thielen Foundation hosts holiday party for The Salvation Army families
Adam Thielen and his wife Caitlin, along with their three young children, continued their partnership with The Salvation Army by again "adopting" five families for the holidays.
The families all are enrolled in The Salvation Army's Pathway of Hope Program, which is a two-year, goal-based program designed to help families emerge from poverty.
The Thielens hosted the five families for a holiday party last week at SCHEELS, where they provided gifts (totaling approximately $1,000) for each family from a personalized wish list.
One of the families in attendance included a single mother, Shalonda, and her 7-year-old daughter. She also has two teenage boys who weren't in attendance, the oldest of whom requires significant medical care for Crohn's disease.
"He is in pain 75 percent of the time – it's very challenging for all of us," Shalonda said.
Receiving encouragement, holiday wishes and tangible gifts from the Thielens meant so much to Shalonda and her children.
"This helps a lot – I've been working my butt off to buy Christmas presents and pay our bills," she said. "I can't wait to go home and tell my boys, 'Guess who gave you all these presents?' "
Thielen Foundation also provided an additional $10,000 to the Pathway of Hope Program for unexpected expenses or hardships families may experience during the year, and SCHEELS donated $500 gift cards to each family. The families received dinner that evening and a voucher for a future trip to Valleyfair Amusement Park. The Vikings provided the families with tickets to Saturday's game against the Giants.
Since its launch in 2018, Thielen Foundation has maintained a consistent relationship with multiple nonprofits around the Twin Cities, The Salvation Army being a prominent one.
View photos of WR Adam Thielen and his wife, Caitlin, hosting a holiday party with the Thielen Foundation for The Salvation Army families.
"This is one of our favorite events we do to bring joy to families over Christmas," Thielen said. "This is a time that means a lot to our family. The presents are a bonus, but to have these families around and show them that somebody cares is why we do it."
Osborn helps provide housing during the holidays
Similar to Thielen, Osborn has an ongoing relationship with The Salvation Army and is an advocate for families who need additional support.
The Vikings receiver recently provided the additional $1,500 needed to move a family experiencing homelessness to a home of its own just in time for Christmas – and just after welcoming a newborn child.
"K.J. has been a tremendous partner this season for The Salvation Army," said Angel Fields Mitchell, Divisional Marketing Director.
Osborn also provided rent support to a family in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan.
For Osborn, the gesture goes deeper than generosity.
He recently explained to The Salvation Army that after his parents divorced, he, his mom Valerie and sister often cleaned a local car dealership to earn extra money toward rent while Valerie pursued a career as a dental hygienist.
"Once or twice, my mom walked into the (apartment) management office and they said somebody paid our rent," Osborn recalled. "That was a huge thing for a single mother with two kids. For me to be in this position now, I want to do that for somebody else."
Adofo-Mensah supports family from Jeremiah Program
Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his wife, Chelsea, wanted to brighten the holidays for a family as they near the end of their first year in Minnesota.
They connected with Jeremiah Program, a nonprofit supports single moms and their children with residential and educational resources.
The couple picked out necessities for winter as well as fun items for a mom who has three daughters and is expecting a son. It was another way to continue the Vikings relationship that was strengthened by 2021 Vikings Community Man of the Year Anthony Barr.
"The Jeremiah Program inspires the community through action and their work providing education, housing, coaching and more to single mothers and their children," Adofo-Mensah said. "We're so grateful for the opportunity to give back this holiday season with generous support from SCHEELS and sponsor [the family's] Christmas shopping this year. These moments give us great perspective and inspire us to do even more in our community."
Bynum holds holiday foundation fundraiser
As mentioned above, Bynum is passionate about giving back to the Twin Cities community.
But his efforts go far beyond Minnesota and even the United States. Bynum, who is biracial and extremely proud of his Filipino heritage, recently held a charity fundraiser for his Bynum Faith Foundation.
The evening's goal was to raise money for the foundation's outreach trip to the Philippines scheduled for March. Tickets for the event were $40, which went directly back to the foundation.
Attendees were able to meet Bynum, as well as hear about the faith-based mission and bid on various auction and raffle items throughout the evening.