KISSIMMEE, Fla. – While crowds of different-colored football jerseys grew near the NFL Pro Bowl practice fields, one young girl and her mother waited excitedly on a quiet sideline nearby.
On that particular field, NFL cheerleaders from around the league practiced their game-day routine that would be performed later that week during the Pro Bowl.
The little girl bounced along with the music, the toes of her tennis shoes tapping in the green grass.
And when the cheerleaders wrapped their rehearsal, she immediately searched the group for Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader Kali, dressed in the familiar purple-and-gold.
Kali soon discovered that the family had traveled to Orlando from their home in South Dakota and were lifelong Vikings fans. To the young girl's delight, Kali happily wrote her a personalized note and signed it.
"Was that the highlight of your Pro Bowl week?" The mother asked her smiling daughter as the two walked away hand-in-hand.
"I love how [the NFL directly reaches] the community here in Orlando," Kali told Vikings.com. "I feel like it really gets families involved. It's nice to see so many kids around and make such an impact. We have so many Vikings fans here, and it's been amazing."
Kali found out during the 2019 Vikings season that she would represent the MVC in Orlando at this year's Pro Bowl and called it "a dream."
Having just wrapped her fifth season with MVC, during which she served as a team captain, Kali emphasized how many of her teammates would be wonderful representatives.
"We have amazing dancers on the team and amazing role models," Kali said. "It's truly an honor and very special to be the one selected out of such an incredible group of women.
"I just hope that I can do my best to bring a piece of every [teammate] here, to show everyone at Pro Bowl what we're all about," she added.
As soon as each NFL team (note: not all 32 teams have cheerleaders) named their cheerleader representative, the women formed a group chat to begin getting to know one another before meeting in person in Florida.
"We all came in kind of knowing each others' stories and backgrounds, and once we got here, it's been that deeper dive and bonding and friendship," Kali said. "To be honest, some of the girls remind me of back home, and it's just been such a joy to meet new friends and create those relationships."
And although Kali got to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temps in Florida, her teammates back home in wintry Minnesota had nothing but well-wishes and encouragement for their fellow MVC.
Kali said that notes and video messages from the other MVC helped break up long practices during the week, and she especially appreciated teammates who previously attended a Pro Bowl reaching out to give her advice.
"They've reminded me, 'Enjoy the experience; soak it all in' and said, 'You're a great representative,' " Kali said. "All the love and support has been amazing."
For the week of the Pro Bowl, cheerleaders were divided into AFC and NFC groups and then split again into two groups within the conference according to height.
"I'm on the tall team," Kali laughed.
In addition to performing before and during Sunday's Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium, the cheerleaders also performed at the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown, participated in fan events throughout the week at ESPN Wide World of Sports and also joined in the Community Huddle Day on Jan. 25.
Kali joined fellow cheerleaders and Pro Bowl players – including Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, fullback C.J. Ham and defensive end Everson Griffen – at a local Boys & Girls Clubs location to give back to the community.
Kali enjoys the Vikings and MVC's emphasis on making a difference in Minnesota and appreciated the opportunity to have a similar impact in Orlando.
"For the NFL and the Pro Bowl to get so involved [off the field], it's really nice to have that community and outreach aspect here, as well," Kali said.