The Vikings partnered with KFAN Sports Radio and the United States Marine Corps in an annual Toys for Tots drive at the Mall of America on Tuesday.
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. —The Minnesota Vikings again partnered with KFAN Sports Radio and the United States Marine Corps in an annual Toys for Tots drive at the Mall of America on Tuesday.
Throughout the 12-hour effort, a steady stream of people dropped off new toys for children who would not otherwise receive gifts for Christmas.
"We love helping out the kids," said KFAN Promotions Director Ellie Tungseth. "Toys for Tots is something that we can do [to partner with] the Marines as well. We think it's a great organization. You never want to hear about those kids who don't have toys for Christmas."
KFAN broadcasted live from 5:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., and Tungseth said The Power Trip morning show drew the largest crowd of people. By 9 a.m., Marines already had loaded up six full boxes to deliver to families.
"I've done quite a few events this year, and this drive has been very successful," Marine GySgt Daniel Navrestad said.
Navrestad and other Marines manned the drop-off stations and conversed with fans and donors who stopped by to participate.
As part of their collaboration with KFAN, the Vikings provided player appearances and various prizes that included game tickets, a football signed by Everson Griffen and an autographed Adrian Peterson jersey. Anyone who donated a toy to the drive could enter a drawing for one of the 13 prizes given away throughout the day.
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh joined the drive for his third time, saying he appreciates being able to provide holiday cheer and excitement for children who would not otherwise have the same experience.
"It takes the pressure off families for giving these kids a good Christmas," Walsh said. "The Vikings have partnered with Toys for Tots for a long time, and all around it's just a really good thing."
Walsh is no stranger to working with children, as he also visits the Minnesota Children's Hospital regularly. For him, there is just something special about making a difference in the lives of youth.
"Kids can't always stick up for themselves, or fight for themselves," Walsh explained. "It's hard to see these little kids going through tough things, whether it's not having good health or not having any toys for Christmas. There are so many good causes in this world, but these really draw my attention."
Vikings fans and shoppers alike brought donations for children of all ages, with items including Disney plush dolls, toy cars and construction vehicles, model airplanes, coloring books and footballs.
Although he did not foresee being a part of Toys of Tots originally, Navrestad said it has been a hugely positive part of his experience with the Marine Corps.
"It's an excellent program," Navrestad said. "It provides children who may not be fortunate enough to receive presents the opportunity to get Christmas gifts. Every year, Toys for Tots collects almost 200,000 toys" in Minnesota.
Last December, the KFAN/Vikings drive brought in approximately 1,000 toys throughout the day. This year, the event collected approximately the same number of donations.