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Vikings Recognize 2023 'That Deserves a Crown' Recipients


The Vikings and Crown Royal are proud to recognize this year's "That Deserves a Crown" award winners.

"That Deserves a Crown" honors people making a positive impact in the community by living generously in their daily lives.

Thea VanGordon | Sept. 10

A second-grade teacher at Minnehaha Academy, Thea VanGordon has been pouring her heart into her young students for more than 20 years.

Haley Mills | Sept. 24

Haley Mills is a Minneapolis-based marketing and social media professional who recently launched a podcast, Sports & the City. Diagnosed at the age of 17 with Crohn's Disease, Mills is a passionate advocate for others navigating digestive diseases. Through various fundraisers, she has raised thousands of dollars for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter and for Team Challenge.

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Konnor Kielman | Oct. 8

Konnor Kielman received his doctorate in occupational therapy at the University of South Dakota. He's a diehard Vikings fan, but his No. 1 passion is supporting and serving U.S. military veterans with Parkinson's Disease.

Patrick Nettesheim | Oct. 23

Patrick Nettesheim and the team at Guitars 4 Vets are saving the lives of veterans by bringing joy and providing hope through the healing nature of music. Nearly 1 million United States military veterans are afflicted by PTSD; in fact, more soldiers have committed suicide since the Vietnam War than have died in actual battle. But many are finding hope in an unlikely place: behind the wood and strings of an acoustic guitar.

Sulo Kyrra | Nov. 12

Lt. Sulo Kyrra (front row, second from right) is a member of the Cannon Falls Emergency Medical Services group. Lieutenant Kyrra was the first on the scene of an apartment fire, where he learned there were two children trapped inside. He bravely entered the burning building and rescued both of the children. He is pictured here with members of his family, members of the Cannon Falls Ambulance Service, MN 100 Club Board President Lanee Noble and Board Member Ray Noble.

Crown - Sulo Kyrra

Lisa Rippentrop | Nov. 27

Public Safety Telecommunicator Lisa Rippentrop of the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office was recognized for her work in securing necessary information in a difficult situation to quickly dispatch first responders to a potential crime scene – and then to help apprehend a suspect. Rippentrop has been dispatching for more than 29 years.

Crown - Lisa Rippentrop

David Aulie | Dec. 24

Deerwood Firefighter David Aulie responded to a call for a fully engulfed house fire. He climbed into the second-story bedroom window and rescued a woman who was covered in debris. Aulie is pictured here (third from the right) with MN 100 Club Executive Director Julie Gotham, Deerwood Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nixon, Firefighter Andrew Kayfes, Deerwood Fire Chief Mike Bodle and Tom Brace, MN 100 Club Vice President and retired State of Minnesota Fire Marshall.

Crown - David Aulies

Brody Merrill | Dec. 31

Deputy Brody Merrill of the Pope County Sheriff's Department was elected as the Police Officer First Responder of the Year by the MN 100 Club for his heroic actions when a suspect opened fire on Deputy Merrill and two other officers. Though wounded himself, Deputy Merrill rendered comfort and first aid to his partner, Josh Owen, who tragically succumbed to his injuries.

Crown - Brody Merrill

This season's final four That Deserves a Crown recipients were brought to us by the MN 100 Club, a nonprofit formed in 1972 to provide emergency financial assistance to first responders who are killed or critically injured in the line of duty. In 2023 alone, more than $200,000 has been given to families of Minnesota first responders. Funds are raised through memberships, special events and the sale of specialty license plates. For more information on how you can support Minnesota First Responders, please visit