EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A chance meeting between two families and a recent invitation to visit Winter Park brought bright smiles to faces of a husband and his three children who are still mourning the loss of their wife and mother.
Justin Robbins, his daughters, Brianna and Emily, and son, Joshua, were able to lead the team chant as the Vikings broke their final practice huddle earlier this month. They were invited to the team's headquarters by Christian Ponder after the Vikings QB learned of the tragic death of Maggie Robbins in a car accident.
Brianna recognized Ponder and his wife Sam in the mall when the Robbins family was on its way to Lululemon to buy items in Maggie's memory. The Robbins asked for a picture, and as they posted it on Facebook, the Ponders, moved by the tragedy, went into the store and said they would purchase what the Robbins wanted.
"It was my wife's idea. We ran up ahead of them, went in the store and told them, whatever happens, we'll take care of it," Ponder said. "It's a tough story. It's not supposed to be about us, it was more about this family losing their mom. It's a tragedy, a tough thing that they're going through."
The Robbins family, a father, two daughters and son, said they feel Maggie's presence when others show their family warmth and kindness.
"It's been a huge help to have not only the support from the community and state of Minnesota, but the Vikings themselves," Justin Robbins said. "It's really helped us take our minds off the tragedy that happened and put us in a better place. It makes us feel that their mom had a lot to do with this so it's very special to us and helping us more."
Justin Robbins said he was unsure of publicizing the act by the Ponders at the mall, but he wanted people to know about their kindness. It was first reported by WCCO.
"He's gotten such great responses from this thing, and that's why we feel so good about it, because he's such a good man with a good heart and that's all that matters in life," he said, "We're real happy about how this went."
The children, clad in Vikings jerseys and hooded sweatshirts on a recent chilly Saturday morning, liked getting to tour Winter Park and the view from inside the team's huddle.
"It was nice," said Brianna. "I really felt like my mom was doing it, and it just kind of lifted my spirit."
Emily, who was wearing the headband she picked out at the mall, took her look a step further by adding splotches of eye black like players wear to reduce glare.
"I liked it. I thought it was really fun to meet famous football players," Emily said. "They're really good at it, so this has been awesome."