MINNEAPOLIS — Chad Greenway and teammates traded in helmets and shoulder pads Monday night for aprons and serving trays for the Vikings linebacker's fourth annual fundraiser dinner to benefit his "Lead the Way Foundation."
The sold-out celebrity waiter night featured dishes from the acclaimed kitchen of Manny's Steakhouse served up with smiles by Vikings players in a stylish atmosphere, interactions with players and a silent auction of autographed Vikings memorabilia.
Greenway, the Vikings first-round pick in 2006, has developed many concepts for giving back. One of his largest programs is Chad's Locker, which provides chronically and critically ill children access to movies and video games on laptop computers and tablets during their hospital stays.
"We started our foundation in 2006 and we've been excited about the strides we've made in the nine years we've had it," Greenway said. "This event has become one of our big events for fundraising and we're able to make people aware of what we're doing with our lockers and other programs, our TendHER Heart luncheons, our camps, the stuff we do with Minneapolis Parks & Rec. It's a huge event. It's a great night, and really, Manny's makes this thing tick. It's easy for me to get teammates to come when it's at Manny's. They make this event so strong because of the food and also the service by the wait staff and people."
Attendees were able to hear how the program positively affects young people faced with serious challenges through the testimony of a family from Waconia (parents Mark and Katie Maurer and children Tate, 13, and Anni, 11). Tate Maurer was diagnosed with Stage 3 Burkitt lymphoma, a cancer that rarely affects American children, in November 2012 on the day he turned 12.
Katie Maurer said her son "kept smiling" while he was hospitalized to undergo intense in-patient chemotherapy treatment because he was able to stream episodes of his favorite show, The Family Guy, on a tablet provided by Chad's Locker.
Tate's cancer is in remission, and he's looking forward to turning 14 next month. He and his sister were able to meet Vikings players at Monday's event and received autographed footballs.
Greenway said he wants to keep expanding the Chad's Locker program because of its reach and because it is rewarding to connect with families like the Maurers.
"Even if it's just a small way, a small piece of their story, that's what it's about, hearing from a person who used it first-hand and benefited from it," Greenway said.
Over the years of providing assistance, Greenway has also witnessed the emotional toll that watching a child fight an illness can place on mothers. He and his wife, Jenni, have hosted five TendHER Heart luncheons to focus on the mothers.
"We find they take the brunt of the disease, with handling the family and being there for all the appointments," Greenway said.
Greenway thanked the celebrity waiter night attendees and his teammates for helping with an event that is a catalyst for the charitable programs through chadgreenway.org.
"Our foundation is a big part of our lives, and fundraising is a huge part of what we do to keep pushing our events and making our stuff bigger, keep being able to do more and reach out to more families," Greenway. "We want to be as widespread and help as many people as possible. Our locker program is a big part of that. These fundraisers have to happen for us (to do that)."