MINNEAPOLIS –On the field, Stefon Diggs is on the receiving end. Off the field, he'd rather be known as someone who gives.
In partnership with CenturyLink and Hy-Vee, the Vikings receiver kicked off his first Thanksgiving turkey giveaway Tuesday night at Pillsbury United Communities. It was Diggs' second visit to the community center, having helped donate new technology last December, and this year he wanted to return and make an even more personal impact.
Thanksgiving holds a special place in Diggs' heart. The holiday always was important to his grandmother, who has since passed away, and Diggs has numerous early memories of spending the day at her house.
"I have a big football family – Redskins versus Cowboys, that kind of thing – [and] my family always came together and played a little football outside," Diggs said. "My grandmother was big on Thanksgiving … so this is a big day for me."
The holiday also annually falls near Diggs' birthday – Nov. 29 – and he recalled often celebrating his birthday on Thanksgiving.
"It's a great birthday gift," said Diggs. "I'm in a position where I'm blessed, and I don't really want for anything, and I wanted to give back.
"I saw this as my first opportunity just to do something for the community," Diggs said. "I try to do some things here and there, but I kind of wanted to get the ball rolling on something I can call my own."
Diggs helped to donate 1,000 turkeys to families across all five Pillsbury United Communities locations, and approximately 50 of those families were on-site at the Oak Park location Tuesday to personally receive the turkeys from the Viking.
Not only did he hand out the main dish for Thanksgiving dinner, but Diggs made time to speak with and connect with each individual – he posed for photos, tossed a football around and even Face-Timed with one young fan who was unable to personally be there. Viktor the Viking and Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders also were present for photo opportunities.
In partnership with CenturyLink and Hy-Vee, the Vikings receiver kicked off his first Thanksgiving turkey giveaway Tuesday night at Pillsbury United Communities.
Alex LaCroix was one father who was gifted a turkey for his family. LaCroix smiled broadly at the chance to meet one of his favorite players and introduce Diggs to his wife and three young sons.
"This means a lot. It takes that much pressure off a big holiday," LaCrox said. "During this time of the year, [people] are stressed out about money and whatever else they might have going on. And something like this, to take time out of his busy schedule – he wasn't born or raised here in Minneapolis, and he still puts his effort, time and money into the neighborhood. It's more appreciated than anybody could ever know."
Senator Bobby Joe Champion opened the evening by thanking Diggs for investing in the community and returning to the Oak Park Center for a second consecutive year.
Oak Park Center Director Naomi Sadighi explained that the surrounding community is generally a low-income neighborhood that suffers from food insecurity.
"This time of the year is especially difficult for a lot of our families, especially because so many of the holidays center around food. And since food is difficult to get in North Minneapolis, it is considered a food desert or a food swamp, any time we can support them with food or a meal or different resources, it always helps them," Sadighi said. "It helps bring their families together in a safe space, and it helps get them to the next year.
"Last team Stefon was here, he stayed probably an extra hour to hang out with the kids and take pictures," Sadighi continued. "It was clear he just really enjoyed being here and connecting with the community, and that means so much."
Diggs said it was incredibly rewarding to make a difference in the lives of so many people and to see how grateful they were.
"As somebody who [grew up] not as fortunate as well, getting a turkey is always good," Diggs said. "I had a lot of support growing up. My mom didn't have too much, she kind of did it on her own, so any support was good. I'm more than grateful to be where I am, especially with my mom – we call her Super Mom – making it happen all on her own a majority of the time."
Added Diggs with a smile: "I'm just happy."