Rhett and his wife Raina joined up with Northwestern Mutual to host a "Share More Love Day" Valentine's party for young patients and family members who are currently staying at the Minneapolis campus of Children's.
MINNEAPOLIS –Rhett Ellison went from yard lines to coloring in the lines Monday afternoon.
Rhett and his wife, Raina, spent time at Children's Minnesota showing love to youth who might need a little extra encouragement. The Ellisons joined up with Northwestern Mutual to host a "Share More Love Day" Valentine's party for young patients and family members who are currently staying at the Minneapolis campus of Children's.
For two hours, Rhett and Raina sat down with patients and family members and crafted Valentines from bright-colored construction paper, feathers, markers, glitter pens and of course, super hero stickers.
Raina, who said glitter was her decoration of choice because "it's the gift that keeps on giving," took time to ask the young guests who they were making their cards for and then engaged in conversation about their friends, family and life back home.
"I got a lot of smiles today, which was the best part of all," Raina said.
Rhett also joined in craft time, carefully creating a Valentine for Raina in addition to helping the children with theirs, posing for photos and signing autographs. One young fan could barely contain her excitement as she asked Rhett about playing for the Vikings and his emotions when he runs out of the tunnel on game day.
Two young brothers talked football with Rhett but proudly expressed their green-and-gold allegiance before politely turning down Rhett's John Hancock.
"There were maybe too many Packer fans," Rhett said with a laugh. "But they were good sports and still happy to see me. There was a lot of fun, a lot of creativity, a lot of strength. You don't know what these kids are going through, but you also can't tell [they're sick] when you see them with the smiles on their faces like that.
"And they were big football fans. If they know who I am, they're actually watching the game," Rhett added. "I was surprised – a couple of those kids knew specific plays that I was in and stuff, so it was really cool."
The party benefited not only the young people but their parents, as well.
Megan Kirschner looked on with a smile as her daughter, Alexandra, made numerous Valentines cards with Raina. Megan explained that Alexandra had been admitted to the hospital unexpectedly the week before with a ruptured appendix and had undergone surgery.
"This is the first thing that she's looked forward to since she's been here – she perked up right away when she found out she could come down and do some crafts and meet [Rhett]," Megan said. "She was sure to call her dad and tell him that she was going to meet a Vikings player."
Megan said she was especially impressed that Rhett continued to invest time in the Twin Cities community during the offseason.
For Rhett, however, he never hesitated to be involved in the event.
When Rhett heard of the opportunity to give back at the children's hospital through "Share More Love Day," he jumped at the chance.
Rhett especially liked the "Bags of Love" that were handed out through Northwestern Mutual to young oncology patients. Each drawstring sack included a variety of items including a stuffed animal named "Chemo Duck" – complete with blue scrubs and an IV port – that allows young patients to understand their condition, explain it to their friends and interact with doctors in a less-daunting fashion.
"It's a different way of giving back to the kids and keeping them positive," Rhett said of the program.
Both Rhett and Raina left the hospital feeling inspired and looking forward to their next visit.
"It really shows you what actual strength is," Raina said. "It's a whole different kind of strength, and it's just really rewarding to be around the attitude that these kids have. They have so much positivity and so much excitement, and the time flies so fast when you're with them."
Added Raina: "Community and friendships and love and support, life really boils down to that."