ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Kamile could not let go of Justin Jefferson's hand.
The Vikings star receiver and a face of the NFL is used to being shadowed and double-teamed everywhere on a football field. But the 5-year-old maintained her grip while leading Jefferson through the aisles of an area store as she selected gifts.
Jefferson, K.J. Osborn and Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards (who joined virtually from out of town), shopped with families from The Salvation Army and A Mother's Love to gift several families new toys, electronics and games.
"It was so sweet. So precious. She's a sweet little girl and she has about 30 stuffed animals now," Jefferson said with a laugh. "So that's pretty much all she was worried about. But you can tell the love that she has. Just being around us and having the time of her life shopping around in the store. This is a moment that she's going to remember for the rest of our lives."
Kamile was one of several children and their parents who participated in the holiday shopping spree. Jefferson and Osborn helped kids fill several shopping carts full of monster trucks, stuffed animals, action figures, games and more.
"You never really think that you can be in this type of situation, to be such a star or such a role model to kids that they want to have you around and they want to experience Christmas shopping with you," Jefferson said. "And, of course, just having that experience with them and them being so excited is amazing."
Jefferson was all smiles for the event despite his on-field challenges this season. Just two days earlier, he made his return after missing seven games.
But Jefferson took a massive hit after completing his second catch of Minnesota's game at Las Vegas.
The Vikings opted to have Jefferson transported to a hospital during the game for further testing. It was especially disappointing after Jefferson had worked his way back from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss seven full games.
"I definitely broke down a little bit after they told me that I wasn't going to be able to go back into the game," Jefferson said. "I mean, this season has been tough for me just with the hamstring injury. And then now with this exit in the game early. So it's been tough, but you know, God's got me. I'm blessed to be in this situation. So, just got to keep going. Keep doing what I need to do."
Vikings wide receivers Justin Jefferson & K.J. Osborn shopped with families from The Salvation Army and A Mother's Love to gift several families.
Jefferson entered the season with the goal of becoming the first player to record 2,000 receiving yards in a season and helping the Vikings win their first Super Bowl. But the Week 5 hamstring injury dashed this season's hope of breaking Calvin Johnson's league record of 1,964 yards.
Jefferson landed on Injured Reserve, enduring the longest stretch of his college or pro career.
"That was the goal — to get at least close to 2,000 [yards]. But since I got hurt, the new goal is 1,000. Of course, I want to end every single year over 1,000 yards," Jefferson said. "We are trying to get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl. The individual stats are not there for me this year, but it's more about winning for the team, doing things for the team to help out."
Jefferson started this season with 36 catches for 571 yards and three scores on 53 targets, good for an average of 114.2 yards per game before the hamstring injury. He was on pace to compete with Dolphins star Tyreek Hill for the NFL single-season receiving yards per game record.
Jefferson's 106.4 yards per game led the NFL in 2022, along with his 128 receptions and 1,809 yards that topped Vikings single-season records respectively set by Hall of Famers Cris Carter (122 in 1994 and 1995) and Randy Moss (1,632 yards in 2003).
Despite this season's roller coaster, Jefferson hasn't swayed from his community commitments.
During the shopping event, it was hard to tell Jefferson has endured so much this season. The 24-year-old superstar was all smiles.
"Hi, I'm Isaiah," a 7-year-old boy told Jefferson. Standing beside Isaiah was Jaxon, a 9-year-old boy wearing a purple Jefferson jersey.
"I like your jersey, man," Jefferson said as he squeezed Jaxon's shoulders and introduced himself.
"It's the same jersey you got on," Isaiah said, which earned a gallery full of laughs from Jefferson, Osborn and surrounding families.
The shopping extravaganza started in the toy section.
As Jaxon asked Osborn to reach the top shelf for a toy from Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet, Isaiah was busy showing Jefferson how many pushups he could do.
"Five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10," Jefferson said, counting for Isaiah. "Oh, you are going to give me another one?"
Much to Jefferson's surprise and delight, Isaiah did 13 pushups in the middle of aisle D54 between Star Wars and Harry Potter toys. Isaiah struck a pose on his feet, folding his arms and looking Jefferson up and down.
"We are stopping at 13 but hey, you are strong," Jefferson said before high-fiving Isaiah.
While Isaiah and Jaxon navigated the toy section, Kamile was loading up on toy unicorns. It did not matter whether they were stuffed unicorns, miniature unicorns or unicorn play sets. Anything and everything involving unicorns belonged to Kamile.
Before heading to the electronics section for a surprise, Jefferson asked Kamile what else she wanted. Already holding a "Fairycorn Princess Surprise" Gold Package, Kamile paused, smiled, and lightly responded, "Unicorns."
Hardly surprised, Jefferson exclaimed, "She's a rockstar and knows exactly what she wants!"
Jefferson, Osborn and the families walked toward a 70-inch TV where Edwards was ready for a video chat. Just before arriving, Jefferson asked the kids who their favorite NBA player was.
Without hesitation and in complete unison, the group responded with a resounding, "LeBron James."
"[Edwards is] on the road, trying to relax for a big game that they've got coming up versus the Lakers, so it was a chance for him to surprise the kids with tickets and show his appreciation," Osborn said. "He and his team had just as much to do with this as we did. They're definitely happy about that. Obviously, they are very happy to see LeBron James, too."
"Merry Christmas, young fellas and ladies," Edwards said to the shoppers.
Edwards surprised families with tickets to the Wolves home game against the Lakers on Dec. 21.
But the kids had one more surprise. Osborn and Jefferson led them into the store's breakroom where gift bags featuring Oakley sunglasses, Bose headphones, Under Armour shoes, Vikings gear and footballs awaited.
Jaxon ripped open his Oakley sunglasses first after shouting the brand's name.
"Oakleys," Jefferson said with a grin. "Best sunglasses in the world."
Jaxon tried his new red-framed shades on as the room grew quiet.
"I feel like I'm on demon time," the 7-year-old boy said with a smile running cheek to cheek.
Jefferson, Osborn and all the parents erupted with laughter.
Whether it was Jaxon and his sunglasses or Kamile and her unicorns, Jefferson and Osborn's influence on these young children was evident, creating an evening everyone involved will remember forever.
"To give this experience to three beautiful families is a blessing. It's a blessing to be in this situation and a blessing to be in a position to give back to them and to shine a light on what they have," Jefferson said. "To team up with K.J. and Ant to provide this experience is outstanding."
The kids weren't the only gift recipients. Just as the evening concluded, Osborn announced that all three parents would receive $1,000 toward their rent.
"I couldn't cry because I didn't want to mess up my makeup," one of the mothers said. "This is such a blessing."
Then, Kamile had one last question for the man whose hands she couldn't let go just minutes ago.
"Justin?" Kamile asked. "Can you sign this football and are you going to Griddy?"
"Of course," Jefferson responded. "And we are all going to Griddy together.
"Football brings a lot of good things toward your life." Jefferson said to the media after the event concluded. "Of course, we always want to be involved in the community, giving back and showing love as much as possible. So this experience is always fun. I did something like this last year, so to experience it again, it's always exciting to see how happy they are and the joy that they have."