EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph has been a pass catcher for Teddy Bridgewater and blocker for Adrian Peterson this season.
The dual-role is something the fifth-year tight end has become accustomed to in the Vikings offense.
This fall, Rudolph added to his role as a supporter for the Muscular Dystrophy Association by becoming an art collector. Rudolph joined his MDA buddy, 10-year-old Luke Hennessey of Prior Lake, at the annual MDA Gala that raises funds to find a cure.
Rudolph instructed his fiancée, Jordan Nine, to make sure she had the winning bid during an auction that Luke painted with help from his mother Tracy, who applied paint to the wheels on her son's chair. Luke made tracks with his power chair and depicted a scene of a young man rising from a chair after a cure has been found. It's on the wall of his family room.
"The painting is phenomenal. He did an incredible job," Rudolph said. "It's a kid getting up out of his wheelchair and walking when they find a cure for SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). I know Luke is excited and that's his dream to get up out of his wheelchair. If anybody is strong enough to do that, it will be him."
Rudolph connected with the MDA Muscle Team as a rookie. It's a cause personal to him because of a friend of the family with muscular dystrophy. He said it's been exciting to see support for finding a treatment and cure grow with help from multiple sports organizations in the Twin Cities.
"The most exciting part of it is getting closer to the cure for SMA," Rudolph said. "Five years ago, it was just kind of blind hope, and now, they're really, really close. Medicine is getting very close, not necessarily to get these kids up out of their wheelchairs but getting them to be a little more independent, giving them a little bit more strength so they can transfer themselves out of their wheelchair."
Tracy, her husband, Tom, and Luke's 11-year-old brother, Seth, help Luke daily. The family is encouraged by progress.
"When Luke was 5, he asked me, 'When I'm 10, do you think they'll have a cure or treatment for SMA?' I said, 'Maybe.' This year, I really think they're going to find a treatment," Tracy said. "We are so close to finding the FDA approval of certain drugs that are out right now and a treatment that will strengthen him so he can live more independently and not really rely so much on us for his basic needs. Really, the progress is there, so it means more every year."
Rudolph joined his 10-year-old Luke Hennessey of Prior Lake, at the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Gala that raises funds to find a cure.
The painting has become an annual collaboration between Tracy and Luke.
"I put paint on his wheelchair and put the canvas down, and he'll make tracks," Tracy said. "Those tracks are symbolizing the journey it takes to get to the cure. We really have fun making the art piece every year."
Tom said the painting "shows the hope and promise that's on the horizon for the treatment of SMA. … It's what we dream for and hope for and is something we're always working for."
Until then, Luke is sure to approach his challenges with courage, an enlightening personality and a smile that shined when his family visited Winter Park. Luke broke down the Vikings final huddle before they headed to Atlanta and defeated the Falcons.
"He is bright and energetic. It's challenging it in the right way," Tom said. "It is focusing on what he can do as opposed to what he can't do and really a lesson we all can learn from because we're all challenged in some ways or another. Rather than dwelling on what it is that he can't do, let's focus on what we can do. With Luke, it's much greater because of his SMA, but he has the ability to use his mind and his intellect, and his personality definitely comes out a lot."