EAGAN, Minn. — Growing up in a single-parent household, Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks witnessed the value of hard work and the sacrifices made by his mother at an early age.
Now in his eighth NFL season and first with Minnesota, Hicks wanted to give back to someone who faced a similar situation.
Hicks and his wife Ivana collaborated with Jeremiah Program on Thursday to surprise one of its alums, LaSherion McDonald, and her family at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Jeremiah Program is an organization that works toward disrupting generational poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time.
"We believe that what a family needs to move out of generational poverty, the lever is education to move into one of sustained economic independence creating generational wealth," Patty Healy Janssen, the Executive Director of the Jeremiah Program's Minneapolis campus said. "But as a single mom living in poverty, getting an education can be difficult in terms of all the other barriers that can come along with that. We provide safe, affordable housing, quality early childhood education and coaching and then a supportive community. That's really our mission."
McDonald was in the program for three years while trying to raise her two sons, 13-year-old Destin and seven-year-old Emarion.
McDonald graduated from the Jeremiah Program in 2017 and is currently employed with Ramsey County as a public health worker. She said the program helped remove barriers for her to accomplish her goals.
"The Jeremiah Program is a big reason why I am where I am today," McDonald said. "I have my free degree, my dream job and with their support and love and financial backing, it made it possible."
Healy Janssen was impressed by McDonald's hard work and determination while she was attending the program.
"LaSherion did all the hard work. We were there to serve and support, but she had a goal and a dream. She realized that dream through a lot of hard work and it's been a privilege to be on that journey with her," Healy Janssen said. "LaSherion is one of the most determined, passionate, resilient women that I've met, not just at Jeremiah but also in life. Her commitment to herself and her family, to her education, prioritizing that, is really just inspiring."
View photos of Vikings LB Jordan Hicks and his wife Ivana as the couple hosted a family from the Jeremiah Program at TCO Performance Center for the holidays.
McDonald and her family were brought into the Vikings practice facility Thursday before the Hicks' came around the corner with a cart full of gifts. The gifts included clothes, toys, footballs and diapers, as McDonald and her husband Aaron Flores have a baby on the way.
"I'm speechless because this is such an amazing thing that they've done inviting us here," McDonald said. "Jordan and his wife are so sweet; they're very down-to-earth and easy to talk to and super generous. This has been a dream come true."
Jordan said this is the second time him and Ivana have done a holiday gift event like this but added it's the first time they've worked with the Jeremiah Program.
Jordan also reflected on those times growing up and the appreciation he has for those who have sacrificed so much to get him where he is today.
"There was a time when I was in these kids' shoes, raised by a single mom and not having necessarily the means to have really good Christmases or really big extravagant birthdays," Jordan said. "You remember those times and the humble beginnings that you have, you appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that people have and gave to really pour into our lives and my family's life.
"When I think back on those times and being in the position that I'm at now, it's humbling and it's a reminder of where you come from," Jordan continued. "It's also just the ability to show love to somebody who may not necessarily be expecting it or to those that just are extremely deserving of it. It's a special opportunity to be able to do something like this."
In addition to the Hicks' providing the family with gifts, Jordan gave them a tour of the Vikings locker room and played catch with Destin and Emarion on the team's indoor practice field.
McDonald and Flores said they were incredibly thankful for the generosity shown by Jordan and Ivana.
"It's a great experience. The tour they gave us was amazing and we're so blessed with all the gifts and so grateful," Flores said. "This is the first time I've interacted with a Super Bowl champion (Hicks won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles in 2017-18), so that was pretty exciting."
Jordan and Ivana had one final surprise in store, though. They gifted the family tickets and pre-game sideline passes to Minnesota's first home playoff game against the Giants at 3:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday.
Jordan said creating a lasting impact on LaSherion, Aaron and their kids' lives is what ultimately matters.
"It's huge," Jordan said. "Again, when you're in a position of influence and you have the opportunity to share that with others, not only does it probably mean the world to them but also it gives you a reminder of what life's really all about and that's sharing moments and memories with people and sharing love with people. What you do on the football field isn't necessarily what truly matters, it's about being able to share that and being an impact in somebody else's life."