MINNEAPOLIS – Kyle Rudolph and his wife, Jordan, are known for providing Halloween-themed treats annually, but they encountered some tricks from 9-year-old Megan Wagner on Tuesday.
As the couple approached Megan's room at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, they were reminded to use the foaming hand sanitizer hanging near the doorframe. Accustomed to the procedure, Kyle and Jordan took turns dispensing a white dollop into their palms.
Only, this time something looked a little different.
Jordan's confused expression quickly turned to laughter that matched Megan's.
Turns out, Megan had swapped out the canister of hand sanitizer for one filled with whipped cream.
"It's fun to see a patient who's going through so much being upbeat and positive. To me, it always just provides perspective," Kyle said. "It just reminds me of how lucky we are.
"Over the years, you get to meet so many different patients, and we have so many different experiences at the bedside," added Kyle, who was hosting his annual Halloween Huddle for patients and their families. "It's funny to see the differences in all of these visits, and today it started off with the whipped cream instead of the foam.
And the pranks weren't done.
Megan offered Jordan and Kyle a box of treats and, although plenty skeptical, they slid open the top to find it rigged with a fake spider that popped out. She later told her guests that she had tricked more than one hospital staff member with "cotton candy truffles" that turned out to be cotton balls dipped in chocolate.
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph and his wife, Jordan, hosted their annual "Halloween Huddle" at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Vikings teammates joined the group for an afternoon of fun and Halloween themed activities.
Vikings rookie cornerback Nate Meadors, wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume complete with inflatable wings, joined Kyle and Jordan on the room visits and was encouraged by Megan's cheerful attitude.
"Man, that's just positivity. You've gotta stay positive in situations like this," Meadors said. "I was laughing. That was funny. I didn't have to deal with it, but that was awesome on her part – and the spider, too. I thought that was awesome that she was able to joke around and do stuff like that. I loved seeing that."
Megan last year defeated osteosarcoma and has been inspired by people like the Rudolphs and Gophers placeholder Casey O'Brien, a four-time cancer survivor. Outside of Megan's room is a recent newspaper clipping that shows O'Brien, also a friend of Kyle's, playing in his first collegiate game against Rutgers.
Although Megan is cancer-free, she now is in heart failure due to the toxicity of the chemotherapy used to treat the osteosarcoma.
Megan's mother, Andrea, said that coming up with pranks for her visitors has become a good distraction and source of fun.
"We were searching for joy when we were first diagnosed, and we came up with some fun ideas," Andrea said. "There's a lot of joy taken away when you're going through this, and we wanted to find that joy again because we feel like laughter, prayer and the expertise of the doctors is what really brings patients back to where we want them to be."
Andrea explained that medication currently is working to treat Megan's heart, and the hope is that she will not need surgery or other interventions. In the meantime, Andrea is beyond grateful for the Masonic Children's Hospital and specifically Kyle and Jordan's commitment to patients and their families.
Andrea called Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, a space that opened in 2017, a "sanctuary" for the Wagner family through 101 days that Megan spent in the hospital during her cancer treatment – a number that will increase now.
"She's a twin, and it actually brings me to tears because I don't see my other kids," Andrea said, emotion cracking her voice. "They came down on Sunday, and we spent an hour-and-a-half in the End Zone, and that's our home away from home. Kyle and Jordan have embraced this hospital, and until you've been here and stayed as many nights as we have, the magnitude of what they've done really can't be put into words."
Andrea also expressed the significance of Kyle involving his Vikings teammates in giving back.
The tight end was joined at Tuesday's Halloween Huddle by Meadors, defensive end Stacy Keely (dressed as a hot dog), tight end Brandon Dillon (Mr. Incredible), tackle Aviante Collins (monkey) and his wife, Jordan. Vikings Legends Rickey Young and Mike Harris (peanut butter sandwich) also were part of the event, along with Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders.
Patients who were able to leave their rooms were welcomed to a Halloween party in the lobby where they could snap photos with and receive autographs from Vikings, enjoy an array of treats and get their faces painted.
Kyle often credits former teammates like John Sullivan and Chad Greenway for inspiring his long-standing relationship with the hospital and hopes he can pass along that same experience to the next generation of Vikings.
"He was such a good sport wearing his Buzz Lightyear costume," Kyle said of Meadors. "[It was great] to have the opportunity to take Nate upstairs on his first visit, to give him the experience of making those bedside visits and getting to spend time with patients. He was phenomenal.
"He just brought so much positive energy to these patients and their families," Kyle added. "And it's really cool for a young guy like that to take time out of his busy day."