By Lindsey Young, For Vikings.com
As much as linebacker Chad Greenway is recognized on the field, his reputation off the field proves equally positive.
In addition to several other organizations in charities he's involved with, Greenway and his wife, Jenni, started the Lead the Way Foundation in 2008. This program works to provide seriously ill and physically challenged children throughout the Twin Cities with relevant support and special experiences.
Recently, Greenway's active involvement to help others inspired a community of Vikings bloggers to join forces with him.
Chad Greenway and his Lead The Way Foundation donated a "Chad's Locker," the third of its kind, at the Hudson Hospital & Clinics on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
Over a period of nine weeks, the Vikings community came together through the unique #MoreThanWords campaign to raise nearly $5,200 for Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation, more specifically the "Chad's Locker" program.
In a letter to donors, Greenway wrote the following:
"Your efforts to restock our children's lockers across the Twin Cities deserve the biggest of thank you's […] Thank you for your donations, your time, for your re-tweets, for your Facebook 'likes,' and thank you for doing all this without expecting anything in return."
The #MoreThanWords concept started earlier this summer with Vikings Territory founder Adam Warwas, who is no stranger to raising funds for charity. Before starting his own site, he wrote for another platform that supported various causes; when he created Vikings Territory, he knew he wanted to continue helping. In 2014, Warwas collaborated with VT readers to raise $1,000 for a young girl suffering from Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension.
In 2015, Warwas wanted to join forces and make an even bigger impact. The first step, however, was choosing a charity to support. While brainstorming, he asked his sister for ideas; she suggested Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation.
"She really isn't a huge football fan at all," Warwas said, "so it illustrated exactly how widespread and genuine Greenway's efforts within the community have been."
After reaching out to neighboring blog founders, Warwas collaborated with the following sites: Daily Norseman, VikeFans.com, Vikings Corner and Vikings Journal. To the group, it was a no-brainer to come together for such a worthwhile cause — and, fitting for a football community, the sites created a friendly competition to see which platform could raise the largest amount.
"It's the easiest thing in the world to extract negativity out of the Internet, and the world of sports media is no exception," Warwas explained. "What's a much bigger challenge, however, is to extract something great from the Internet and move people to take action for a worthy cause. The Vikings fan base is pretty incredible as it is, and the online Vikings community is fairly tight-knit. To 'challenge' the other sites only made sense in terms of trying to make a larger impact, and each of them was great to work with. I hope it becomes an annual thing."
Although Lead the Way is multi-faceted, #MoreThanWords specifically supported the Chad's Locker program, which positively impacts patients at children's hospitals in the Upper Midwest.
Greenway generated the idea after making a few visits to hospitals earlier in his career. The linebacker said he often saw kids confined to hospital rooms without much to do, and he felt it was a gap his foundation could fill.
"I saw this first-hand when my own dad got sick," Greenway told Vikings Territory. "I have three daughters and also a few nieces and nephews. We wanted to be there with and for my dad, but spending hours in the hospital with kids — it can be really stressful. These lockers and the items in them really offer relief to these families for just a brief moment in a very difficult situation."
Each locker is stocked with an inventory of electronics available for check-out by patients or family members; the contents include everything from iPads and laptops to video games and video game systems.
A father of three himself, Warwas relates to the concept driving the program and appreciates that Chad's Lockers have such a great track record and address a unique need.
"Football provides millions with an escape from real-life stresses we face daily," Warwas said. "Chad's Lockers do the same thing for families facing incredible circumstances."
In July, I visited Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to see one of the lockers. There, I met 18-year-old Jaimie Senger, a three-year patient at Children's. Senger is a committed Vikings fan, and Greenway is one of her favorite players — but she appreciates him for so much more than his on-field performance.
As a regular visitor to the locker herself, Senger affirms the significance the program has made on the hospital and its guests. To Senger and other patients, an iPad is much more than something to play games on.
"Chad's Locker helps all the kids that are here," Senger told me for a Vikings Territory feature. "It helps them feel better. It basically helps distract them [during] their treatment or the experience of having to be in the hospital; it makes it better. It definitely has made my stay here better."
Warwas coined the #MoreThanWords hashtag for the campaign, and the Vikings blog teams took to social media in a combined effort to spread to share Senger's story and spread the word effectively.
The fundraiser wrapped up on Aug. 21, and the writers could not be more proud of the effort and involvement from countless Vikings fans that came together to support Greenway and the locker program.
"It really was a great experience being able to work with all of these other Vikings communities to raise money for a great cause. Vikings fans have always been among the best and most generous people I know, and the #MoreThanWords campaign is just another great example of that," said the Daily Norseman's lead writer Christopher Gates. "We're already looking forward to next year!"