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Vikings Spread Holiday Cheer Throughout Twin Cities Communities

Throughout the December holiday season, numerous Vikings spent time in the community and giving back in various ways.

Safety Camryn Bynum hosted a Filipino Fiesta, strengthening a connection to his heritage while raising money for the Bynum Faith Foundation; C.J. and Stephanie Ham supported a family that's fostered more than 100 children and is growing through adoption; several players participated in SCHEELS holiday shopping sprees during the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots event; and Brandon Powell and Troy Fumagalli, who is on the Vikings practice squad, respectively hosted events at local Boys & Girls Clubs.

And who could forget about Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn teaming up with Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards to lift up local families for Christmas?

The goodwill efforts continued this week with players providing cheer at children's hospitals or hosting holiday events for local young people.

Below are more of those community efforts by the Vikings organization.

Vikings offensive line & Kirk Cousins host 'Winter Wonderland' party

K'Vonte vividly remembers sleeping in his car in 2021, trying to stay warm on December evenings that dipped well into negative temps.

Two years later, he's working to help youth facing similar situations of homelessness at The Link, a nonprofit established by Vikings Legends Jim Marshall and Oscar Reed in 1991.

"When I finally went to get help, I found The Link in downtown Minneapolis," K'Vonte said. "They were the first people to accept my housing referral so I'd have somewhere to stay. … After three or four months of being there, they gave me a job on the youth housing committee.

"This is my family now," he added, gesturing to other staff members and families. "I'm forever grateful."

Now a full-time youth specialist at The Link, K'Vonte brought a group of young people to the Vikings Museum on Dec. 18 for the Vikings Winter Wonderland holiday party. Hosted in part by Minnesota's offensive line, as well as Kirk and Julie Cousins, the festivities included various craft projects, a "Letters to Viktor" station, board games, coloring activities and a Build-a-Bear stop.

Guests also were gifted a new winter coat from SCHEELS and a Vikings crewneck from UNRL.

Representing for the Vikings o-line were Christian Darrisaw, Ed Ingram, Blake Brandel, Austin Schlottmann, Chris Reed, Hakeem Adeniji, Tyrese Robinson, Coy Cronk and Henry Byrd. And though Brian O'Neill was unable to attend due to rehab for his ankle injury, the party had been made possible by his $5,000 personal donation.

"As soon as I got the text [from O'Neill] that this event was happening again, I was happy," Ingram said. "It's such a fun night."

Ingram played Connect 4 with a preschool-aged fan, while Reed and Schlottmann manned the Build-a-Bear station and Brandel joined some youngsters painting wooden trains.

"It's great to hear people's stories," Brandel said. "You can pull inspiration from them. It really does put things in perspective and reminds you … to be grateful. We are so fortunate to be able to reach out to others and spread some joy, especially at this time of year.

"You think about putting yourself in other people's shoes, and the circumstances that they're facing – to be able to smile and still really enjoy life, it's a testament to their strength and courage," Brandel added. "Just being around that makes it easy to be involved in these events."

Cousins may be sidelined from football with a torn Achilles, but he hasn't slowed from making a difference in the community. He and Julie donated 140 Christmas books for the party attendees, and he enjoyed posing for photos, signing autographs and chatting with a few of the teenagers.


"We believe strongly that to whom much is given, much is required. It's important that, if you have more than enough, to give and to help people who need help," Cousins said. "Everybody deserves a special Christmas, and if we can do that through this event, then it's a night well spent.

"They're happy to be here, and [it's fun to see them] excited about Christmas and about the presents," Cousins added. "It's pretty easy for us to get over here and say hello to everybody, take photos and hopefully put a smile on people's faces."

K'Vonte and Scarlet, a fellow youth specialist at The Link, noted the impact such an event can have on young people facing homelessness and other challenging circumstances.

"The players come out, and you forget they're players," K'Vonte said. "You just think they're really big people walking around in jerseys. It's nice to know professionals can just be regular people."

Scarlet grinned as she took a selfie with Cousins to send to her aunt.

"I'm from Minnesota, so I'm a diehard Vikings fan," she said. "I absolutely love what I do. The Link is the real deal. … They genuinely care about the kids they are working with. And when you're older, they help get you full-time work, and they still invite you to events like this. It's incredible."

View photos of the Winter Wonderland event at the Vikings Museum hosted by quarterback Kirk Cousins and Vikings offensive lineman.

Brandon Powell visits Children's Minnesota patients

During his collegiate career, Brandon Powell and the Gators one year played a bowl game in Birmingham, Alabama, after visiting a children's hospital earlier that week.

The interactions experienced and memories made that day have forever impacted him.

It's why Powell has visited children's hospitals, with teammates or solo, throughout his NFL career.

The Vikings receiver visited Children's Minnesota – Minneapolis on Dec. 11 and stopped by patients' rooms to deliver holiday gifts and encouragement.

Powell met Xavier, and the two bonded over video games, as well as a young girl named Lydia who enjoyed asking him questions. He wished Beckett a happy first birthday and enjoyed hearing about 3-year-old A.J.'s favorite superhero, Spider-Man.

Powell was particularly struck by a room visit with Jose, a young man undergoing intensive treatment in the cardiac center, and his mother.

"It just shows how much you can have an impact on people. It's more than just football," said Powell, who received and returned multiple hugs from Jose's mother. "You've got a kid who's completely laid up in a bed on Christmas, and he was excited just to see a football player. It honestly makes me want to go work out right now, try to get going to keep playing so I can keep being a light to these kids."

Powell had fun with 4-year-old Temi, who isn't letting the need for a Berlin Heart mechanical heart assist get her down. The energetic young lady demonstrated two different touchdown dances for the Vikings wideout, and she was surprised when he asked for her autograph.

Temi was tentative at first, then excitedly and carefully used a silver Sharpie to pen her name on the front of Powell's jersey. In return, he autographed a mini Vikings helmet for her.

"I wanted to have something I could remember them by," Powell said. "The kids are getting gifts, autographs, so I just want to have something I can look back on [to keep perspective] in life."

He also received autographs from 10-year-old Gunnar, a chess aficionado, and 15-year-old Ezra.

View photos of the Vikings Home Team – made up of wives and partners of Vikings coaches, players and training staff – hosting a unique shopping experience at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital with SCHEEELS

'Vikings Home Team' helps patients shop for loved ones

The Vikings Home Team – made up of wives and partners of Vikings coaches, players and training staff – set up a unique shopping experience at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

SCHEELS donated $5,000 to the cause, and Natalie Brandel (Blake's wife) led the charge on shopping for gifts that young patients could then select for their parents, grandparents, guardians or siblings. Items included blankets, winter hats, YETI travel mugs, jigsaw puzzles, Squishmallows and more.

"We made a point to think about how challenging this time is and what would make people smile," Natalie said. "This is super special to me because I could not imagine having to spend the holidays in the hospital. Anything we can do is super great."

UNRL donated hoodies to the shop, and Whitney Risner (wife of LG Dalton Risner) donated items from her own WaaWees jewelry line, from which several young girls found gifts for their mothers.

"I know 'Baby Whit' would be freaking out if she knew she had a jewelry company that's now expanding and getting to spread love to other people," Whitney said. "I feel like my whole life, that's felt like my mission. Being able to love others. I have a big heart. So when this opportunity came up, I was like, 'This is so on-brand with WaaWees. And if WaaWees can be a part of it in any way, I'm so excited.' "


Whitney said her heart "instantly melted" when she heard about the event, and she jumped at the chance to be part of it.

"I've been so excited for this event," she said. "The tears and emotions that today brought; being able to put smiles on other people's faces for the holidays … is such a blessing. It's so wonderful to be here and bring this event to them."

Over a two-hour window, young people came down to peruse items and select them at no cost for their loved ones. After finding the perfect gift, a member of the Vikings Home Team wrapped it for them. Caretakers of infants had the opportunity to select gifts for themselves, and a group of women also made room visits on the NICU floor to deliver items.

"The thing that stuck out to me the most was a teenage girl whom [hospital staff] said she likely wouldn't chit-chat, but she ended up opening up about her family, was telling us all about her sisters and picked out gifts for everyone," Natalie said. "That was really special.

"It's such a great way to get together outside of football and get to know each other a little bit better," she added. "And it's really special that some of the women had a great time last year and wanted to come back and help out this year. We're all blessed … so it's fun to be able to give back together."

Following is a list of the women who participated, in addition to Whitney and Natalie: Leah O'Connell (Head Coach Kevin O'Connell), Tiffany Daniels (Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels), Chelsea Adofo-Mensah (General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah), Jill Miller (Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller), Katie Williams (Tyler Williams), Haleigh Mullens (QB Nick Mullens), Stephanie Ham (FB C.J. Ham), Ashley Franza (P Ryan Wright), Kayla Adeniji (T Hakeem Adeniji), Lauren Schlottmann (OL Austin Schlottmann), Molly Eller (Vikings Legend Carl Eller), Candace Randle (Vikings Legend John Randle) and Melissa Harris (Vikings Legend Mike Harris).


Alexander Mattison & Harrison Phillips host shopping sprees

Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips continued to demonstrate why he's been selected as the Vikings nominee for the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

On Dec. 11, Phillips hosted his "Harrison's Playmakers" for a shopping spree. Phillips dressed as Santa Claus and helped the young people select toys and fun gifts for themselves but also an item or two for a family member or to donate.


As part of his "Rush to Give Back" efforts, Vikings running back Alexander Mattison supported five families in need from Garden City School.

Mattison hosted the families at SCHEELS, where he welcomed and encouraged them ahead of a shopping spree. Each family received a SCHEELS gift card, as well as a rent assistance check.

In addition, Mattison had previously given each family a Christmas tree to help celebrate the holidays.