Vikings safety Harrison Smith held his annual Dodgeball game at Winter Park for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Foundation.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.— Harrison Smith had to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge on Tuesday night.
The Vikings safety hosted his annual gathering at Winter Park with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities for the fourth straight year, but this time there was a little twist.
Instead of playing kickball like in the previous three years, Smith and Big Brothers Big Sisters switched it up and picked up the action with dodgeball.
"Kickball was cool, but it was a little slow-paced," Smith said. "A lot of people were standing around when someone was kicking and pitching.
"So dodgeball, everybody's fair game," Smith added with a smile. "I was probably the most fair game — I got hit a few times. I think it was more fun."
Added Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo: "I think most people would agree it was a little more fast-paced and was continually going. I was excited about the change. There was one kid who was throwing some major heat out there. I was hiding in the back."
No matter the sport, Smith's impact on the 25 Bigs and 25 Littles was felt again on Tuesday.
Besides hosting the organization for the fourth straight year, Smith and the Vikings surprised Big Brothers Big Sisters and also presented a check to them for $10,000.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentorship program that pairs adults with kids aged 8 to 18. The matches hang out a few times a month and do anything from arts and crafts to sporting events to just grabbing lunch.
"It gives them someone that is not a parent that they can listen to that can show them a different way," said Brian Hissong of Big Brothers Big Sisters. "One thing that is great about our mentors is that they sign up for at least a year commitment, and in a year you get to show a lot.
"Not just through your words … but what our mentors do is they show that every time they show up. They show what it means to be reliable, what it means to follow through on a commitment," Hissong added. "They're mentoring through their actions and not their words. Having someone like that in your life, whether it's one year or eight years, is extremely impactful."
Smith was introduced to the program when his college roommate at Notre Dame was a Big. The Pro Bowl safety jumped at the chance to get involved in the organization locally when he arrived in Minnesota a few years ago.
"It doesn't always have to be huge, grandiose things. It's just hanging out an hour every now and then, going to an event here or an event there," Smith said. "Show them something that they haven't experienced yet. Go to a museum. Go to a sporting event. They might have never been to a museum or a sporting event or whatever.
"It's just that investment of their time into the Little, the Littles appreciate that and know how big of a deal it is," Smith added. "And it's really cool to see Bigs and Littles come back after a year or so, and maybe they just started out a couple years ago and now they're, you can kind of tell the bond that they have, how they've developed trust and communication. I think it's amazing to watch."
On Tuesday, all the fun was on the Winter Park turf as foam balls flew threw the air. Smith was on Team Gold while Sendejo and Vikings cornerback Terence Newman sided with Team Purple.
"That was really fun because Harrison is my favorite football player ... I think that he plays really well," said Kamell Bradley-Terrell, a Little. "It means a lot to me because for someone to put all of this stuff together for people like us that never really get to see Vikings players or stuff like that … that they would put this together for us."
Besides a fun-filled dodgeball game, Smith also gave the group a tour of the locker room at Winter Park.
But perhaps the highlight of the night was the question-and-answer session involving the three Vikings players and the group of Bigs and Littles.
Smith, Sendejo and Newman were hit with questions about their favorite cars and music, but also talked about overcoming adversity and what mentors they had in their lives.
Smith and Sendejo mentioned Newman, who is in his 15th pro season, as someone they look up to.
"Terence would be an example of a guy now," Smith said. "He's a peer, but he's also been there, done that. He shows us things every week."
Some questions, such as whether or not they like to lift weights or if Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has a gentler aspect of his typically hardline personality, drew plenty of laughs from the players.
Besides hosting the group at the Vikings practice facility Tuesday, Smith has also been giving back all season on the field through his 'Big Tackles' campaign. He will donate money to Big Brothers Big Sisters for each tackle he records this season and hopes to reach a goal of $40,000.
"I was fortunate to have mentors kind of in every stage of my life that made it easier to grow up and to know the right things to do and how to act, how to interact with people, the important things in life," Smith said. "Not everyone is that fortunate, and Big Brothers Big Sisters is a great avenue to put mentors with young people. And I think it can really impact their lives. I'm just fortunate to be a part of it."