HUTCHINSON, Minn. — Chad Greenway sure can grow a family.
The father of three daughters recently announced he and his wife Jenni are expecting a fourth daughter.
Greenway's family swelled even more for two days last week as more than 500 boys and girls participated in the annual "Day to REACH Camp" in what's become the South Dakota native's "adopted hometown."
Greenway stepped into the mix in linebacker drills, navigated a tractor-trailer's worth of tires on the ground, made a diving one-handed catch as a receiver and scaled a mobile climbing wall that had been brought in by the Minnesota National Guard.
He was part proud papa and part older brother, interacting with the young people who have grown to admire him. Some of the youth are the age where they don't know the Vikings without Greenway, who is preparing for his 11th season.
While the days are action-packed, a significant amount of time is placed on character development and education about proper nutrition. The camp is led by Hutchinson strength and conditioning coach and REACH program director Chad Harlander.
REACH is a voluntary, in-school program designed to help students with academic, social and/or emotional needs. REACH stands for Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character and Hard work and is the vision of Harlander, who has years of counseling experience. Under Harlander's direction, the REACH program has been spreading to schools throughout Minnesota.
Before doling out more than two dozen "hustle awards" on Friday, Greenway encouraged campers to think about "the way you live your life and the decisions you make."
"We talk about character in this camp … we talk about pushing ourselves back there through all the obstacles," Greenway said. "Things you guys did in this camp, those are going to take you a lot further than just in football or sports. Those are lessons you can apply in school for your grades, those are lessons you can apply at home with your nutrition and character.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was presented with a key to the city of Hutchinson as he hosted over 500 children at the annual ???Day to REACH Camp???.
"When you're walking through class, if you see someone struggling, someone that needs a hand, somebody that needs somebody to reach out to them, somebody that needs a friend, needs someone to play with at recess, go do it," Greenway continued. "Walk the walk like Harley does. Let's be a difference in our communities. Let's change the mentality with our schools. It starts with you guys."
Greenway and Harlander first met when they worked a camp together in South Dakota a few years back. They saw similar values in each other and have partnered on the two-day camp that's grown in attendance from 100 at the inaugural session.
"Without this man right here, this community wouldn't have this camp or a lot of things," Greenway said. "This REACH program wouldn't exist without Chad Harlander. Not only that, it's one thing to put it together, but it's about enthusiasm, attitude, effort. You think he has all those things?"
Cheers replied convincingly.
Ten seconds around Harlander is enough to answer that question. He's a walking, talking, clapping healthy shot of adrenaline, lifting spirit and willpower.
Yet, when asked to sum up what it's been like to see the camp grow with Greenway's involvement, it took Harlander one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three … seven Mississippi, before he said with a slight cracking caused by emotion, "Appreciation."
"It means a lot that, one, Chad and his family believed in what we had as a dream, and every year it's growing, so I think it says a lot for Chad and for what he stands for," Harlander said. "Two, the kind of camp that we were trying to accomplish, not only with football, but with teaching kids how to be a good person, make the right choices when nobody is looking, so you build on that culture.
"Everything about Chad and Jenni's family is about everybody else and helping everybody else," Harlander added, noting this year's theme was selfless. "It's one of the most important values that we can teach young people: it's not about you; it's about your family, team and classmates and how you can help them."
Harlander and Ray Pederson, a 71-year-old known to everyone at camp including Greenway as "Coach Grandpa," still see "small-town values" emanating from Greenway.
Pederson, of Cottonwood, has attended the camp each year and is feeling much better after a knee surgery and a five-plus hour surgical procedure on his chest. He is still assisting with coaching, fulfilling the dream he first had when he returned from serving in Vietnam in 1966.
There wasn't a teaching job available for Pederson when he returned so he earned a business degree and worked for State Farm for 34 years. He loves to work with young people.
"I have a good retirement and am living the American dream. I just wish my buddies that I served with could do the same," Pederson said. "This is for the kids. If we can teach them to be good citizens in this country, this country is going to be a better place for it. It starts right here."
Greenway and Pederson both were raised on hog farms. Greenway played 9-man football, and Pederson played 8-man football.
"He's probably the most humble, down-to-earth person I've ever met," Pederson said. "What a gentleman."
Added Harlander: "That's what I love about him. He's genuine, he is a person of character, a family man, a husband. All of those things come before football."
In addition to the camps, Greenway has been actively involved in Hutchinson. He attended the inaugural REACH Conference this spring and opened one of his seven "Chad's Lockers" programs at Hutchinson Health to benefit young hospital patients and their families.
In recognition of Greenway's commitment to Hutchinson, Mayor Gary Forcier surprised Greenway with a framed key to the city.
"Thank you for being a great role model for all of our kids," Forcier said.