EAGAN, Minn. – Several Vikings exchanged their jerseys for costumes and strutted their stuff.
Vikings teammates last week joined young patients from M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital for a Halloween party and fashion show sponsored by Caribou Coffee.
Players dressed in costumes that coordinated with the youngsters, whether matching or complementary.
Safety Cam Bynum first dressed as a boom box to join a young "80s rockstar" on the catwalk; he later donned a beekeeper's costume and carried a sweet infant "beehive" through the spotlights.
"I had a blast. I had a great costume, but the kids had even better costumes," Bynum said. "Just being able to do that with them, seeing their excitement walking up on that stage and being able to show off their outfits, their costumes, they had a blast. If they had fun, I had fun."
The event largely was headed by the Vikings offensive linemen, who all shuffled through multiple costume changes.
"We all got pretty sweaty changing in and out of those fleece costumes," laughed Garrett Bradbury, "but it was really fun."
Among the characters that took the stage were Batman (Brian O'Neill), a tiger (Bradbury), a Care Bear (Blake Brandel), a dalmatian (Ezra Cleveland), Sully from Monster's Inc. (Ed Ingram), Poseidon (Chris Reed), a pumpkin (Kyle Hinton) and Superman (Josh Sokol).
"It was kind of a scramble to figure out what costumes fit and what paired with what, but it was well-organized and fun to hang out with the kids and have the guys out here dressing up. It was fun," said Cleveland.
The Vikings have had a 35-plus-year relationship with M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital, and Tuesday's unique event carried that on.
"Some of the amazing programs and contributions that they have brought to our hospital are our Holiday Huddle events, bedside visits, as well as individual player donations that have helped us create spaces like our Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, The Wilf Family Center, the John A. Sullivan Playground and more," said Child Family Life Supervisor Shannon Hokum. "Events like this really give our patients something to look forward to when they're spending time in the children's hospital. It also gives them a distraction from what is going on during their time spent in the hospital.
"We're very thankful to the Minnesota Vikings for creating these opportunities for our patients and their families," Hokum added.
Lyndsey Thorpe, Caribou Coffee Manager of Brand Activation, also expressed gratitude for relationships with the Vikings and the children's hospital.
"Like a great cup of Caribou Coffee, a great cause has a way of bringing people together. Our Caribou Coffee crew always tries to serve with love in the communities we call 'home,' " Thorpe said. "Minneapolis is our hometown, and M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital is right in our backyard. So it's so important for us to support our local community, and this partnership is special to us because it has such an authentic way of bringing partners like the Minnesota Vikings together to do events just like this. The work at Masonic is truly transformative, and we are so honored to play a small role in driving their continued impact."
O'Neill and Bradbury emphasized the importance of positively impacting the community as a position group.
"Doing stuff outside of the facility together, in general, is good for us to just spend time and hang out away from the building. But then to help other people together, it was just so awesome," Bradbury said.
The event allowed young people facing difficult illnesses and conditions to forget about hospital life for a night and simply be kids.
The significance of that hit home for many Vikings, who reminisced of their own childhood costumes to go trick-or-treating.
"I dressed up as a bush once," Bradbury laughed. "It was like a ghillie suit. My mom made it. I'm not sure why I chose a bush."
Cleveland, on the other hand, most remembers the years he went as The Hulk and Buzz Lightyear.
Harrison Phillips and Andrew Booth, Jr., were among non-offensive-linemen who participated in the event, and Phillips appreciated another opportunity to connect with the children's hospital.
The 6-foot-3, 307-pound defensive lineman squeezed into looks, from a green fish to Peter Pan to an inflatable unicorn.
"A lot of the costumes say, 'One size fits all,' and that is a blatant lie. We need to have a conversation with these costume makers," Phillips quipped.
"It was very fast … so I tip my hat to those magicians and stuff who do it on the fly," he added. "But it was really fun and a lot of smiling faces."
Booth, meanwhile, chose a dashing Prince Charming costume.
"I actually put on a couple, but then I saw that one and thought, 'Yeah, that seems very fitting. I want that one,' " Booth said with a smile.
The Vikings rookie joined Nicolette, dressed as a princess, on the catwalk.
"I got a picture of the two of us, so that was sweet," Booth said.
For the group of Vikings teammates, playing "make believe" for an evening meant more than silly memories.
"When I was a kid, I remember Halloween being a really big thing, and I think I would put this event over trick-or-treating," Cleveland said. "Having the guys out here hanging out with the kids and making them special is a great thing, and I'm glad so many people showed up."