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Kyle Rudolph, Vikings Players Hand Out Essential Goods to Those in Need

MINNEAPOLIS — Tymon Young lives at Snelling Avenue & East 36th Street, which sits roughly three miles from the intersection where George Floyd died on May 25.

Young is a 41-year-old with an infant son and a handful of nephews at home, and he hasn't been able to do much shopping in his neighborhood because buildings were damaged in the aftermath of Floyd's death.

But Young waited in line for an hour and walked away with two cases of water, plus multiple bags of food, medicine, cleaning supplies and baby products Friday morning as the Twin Cities community came together to help those in need.

"I've got a newborn, he's 3 months old, so I got diapers," Young said. "Just some food and stuff for my little nephews and my son while they're at home. Grocery stores are closed around here and there's no close grocery stores.

"Just to see everybody out here, it's a beautiful thing. Just giving something back, because all this got burned. My sister goes to school there, and my mom shops there," Young said while pointing around the shopping center. "It's messed up, and something has to be done about it, but I just love to see people of all colors out here."

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph helped organize the event near East Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue, which was held in the parking lot of Cub Foods. The donation drive directly impacted those in the nearby area who are struggling to get essential goods right now.

And while the event was slated to go from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., those in need and those willing to help showed up early. The line that stretched through the parking lot never dimmed as helpers scurried around doing whatever they could.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph helped organize a donation drive that directly impacted those in the nearby area who are struggling to get essential goods. Vikings players and other Minnesota professional athletes volunteered at the donation drive.

Rudolph carried bags of food to waiting cars, Danielle Hunter hauled cases of water bottles around and Adam Thielen handed out popsicles, while other teammates helped pass out items or simply lended listening ears.

"This was supposed to start at 11 a.m., and we had over 100 people here at 9:30 a.m., so that just shows the need in this community and how badly people are suffering for essential goods and food," Rudolph said. "It really speaks to how important this stuff is, and it makes me feel extremely appreciative to have the opportunity to organize something like this.

"We tried to provide basic goods … things you would go to your local [store] and get, but you can't right now," Rudolph added. "We tried to come down here and provide families with things they need."

Rudolph, Hunter and Thielen were joined by other teammates including Garrett Bradbury, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier, Chad Beebe, Cameron Smith and Jake Browning. Vikings wide receivers coach Andrew Janocko also helped.

"A lot of people watch us and are influenced by what we do, so it's just coming out and making a difference, being a difference and restoring the community," Hunter said. "That will influence the younger ones for when they grow up. They'll have the same change of heart, 'If something happens, I can be the one to change it. It can start with me.'

"We're trying to do as much as we can. We came in, brought stuff for donations. Cub Foods issued a whole bunch of water bottles and all of that kind of stuff," Hunter added. "That just shows how long the line is and how much people in the community need our help. We're doing everything in the community that we can to help out and support these people."

Added Dozier: "You watch this happen in the city that you've fallen in love with, and all you want to do is give back and support. You see people coming together, but it takes each and every person."

Other prominent sports figures helped out, including Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie and Head Coach Ryan Saunders, plus University of Minnesota football Head Coach P.J. Fleck and a handful of his players.

Nearly everyone helping wore shirts that said, "Change Starts With Me."

"Me means every single one of us," Fleck said. "There's not a bigger humanitarian we have representing our city, I think, than Kyle Rudolph. We're here to support and do our part.

"We're either part of the problem or part of the solution, and we're doing everything we can to be part of the solution," Fleck said. "This is what our community is all about — togetherness."

Added Okogie: "This my duty. These are people that come to games and buy tickets and cheer for us. When they're down, I think we should in turn cheer for them. This community is in desperate need, and I vow to help them any way I can."

As he waited to load items into his car, Young chatted with Collins, who had helped him carry the essential items across the parking lot. Young said he and Collins bonded in just a few short minutes.

"Everybody feels the same … that this is bad. It's bad news," Young said. "[Collins is] from Houston, and George is from Houston, too … basically the same place.

"Everybody is hurt about it, and it's not just black people. It's every race out here, and that's what beautiful about this," Young said. "This affected everybody."

Rudolph, who was one of a dozen Vikings to attend Floyd’s memorial on Thursday afternoon, said he took the words of Rev. Al Sharpton to heart.

"We can all learn that the color of your skin should not determine opportunities, success … we should all be treated the exact same," Rudolph said. "I'm fortunate I play for a team that has invested in this, and I've learned so much over the last few years from listening to my teammates who have grown up with these problems and been in these situations.

"Those stories from my teammates educated me," Rudolph continued. "Just listen and learn. It takes you from being sympathetic to being empathetic, and feeling what they feel."

"We need change, and I want to be a part of that," Rudolph added. "It starts with each and every one of us here."