BLOOMINGTON — Anticipation built as the roller coaster climbed.
Chad Greenway recently hosted 15 families for a day of fun at Mall of America for his Lead the Way Foundation.
The car crested the top of the first hill, tilted forward and prompted screams of joy that were accompanied by a WOOSH and trailing breeze.
Loops, ups, downs, twists and turns followed until the occupants of the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at Nickelodeon Universe inside Mall of America.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway accompanied critically and chronically ill children and their families on the ride Sunday. Greenway was less of a thrill seeker and more of a joy provider for 15 children bravely facing medical issues and their families.
"We got a couple of people up there that had never done it before," Greenway. "They were having a good time."
Greenway and his family hosted a "Field of Dreams" event as part of the commitment his Lead The Way Foundation makes to improving lives of children and families who are facing tough circumstances.
The children and families received full run of the amusement park for two hours, followed by lunch at the Hard Rock Café to conclude a fun-filled weekend that also featured visits to: American Girl, the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience, CSI: The Experience, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, Sky Deck, movies and gift cards that were good throughout the mall. Radisson Blu Mall of America donated accommodations.
"Honestly, it's pretty amazing that big places like the Mall of America and Radisson coming to help us and aid one of our events," Greenway said. "They're so giving in helping us do what we want to do with these families, it just makes it so much easier for us. Having relationships with Radisson and Mall of America is just huge for our foundation. It makes the weekend so much better for these families."
Greenway's foundation, which launched in 2008, hosted the fifth annual TendHER Heart* *brunch for mothers and launched its sixth "Chad's Locker" program last month. The locker program provides hospitals with a library of technological learning and entertainment devices for patients during their hospital stays.
Greenway, who recently won the Byron "Whizzer" White award from the NFLPA for his commitment to the community, has seen the toil and stress that families experience while in hospitals and wanted to provide respite.
"This weekend is supposed to be stress free. You show up, and once you drop your bags off in your room, we take over and kind of give you the weekend. With the Mall of America to give us 9 to 11 with nobody else in the whole park, I don't know that they've done that for anybody, so for them to do it for us is pretty special. The families had an absolute blast.
"They're so appreciative of being able to get away and spend time with each other and not have to run from one thing to the next," Greenway continued. "They're able to smile and get rid of the stress for a weekend."