Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs visited children partnered with Century Link to deliver early Christmas presents to patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
MINNEAPOLIS –Thanks to Stefon Diggs, the holidays came a little early for two patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Dante Johnston, 16, was diagnosed with cancer over Thanksgiving weekend and thought he was just coming to the hospital for his first clinical appointment. He and his mom, Yolanda, were directed instead to a conference room, and Dante was speechless when he walked through the door and saw Diggs there to greet him.
"I woke up today and knew there was a little surprise; [my mom] had to do something to get me out of bed," Dante later quipped. "But I come in and see all these people, the reporters and gifts and so many things that I didn't expect … Diggs and [Viktor the Viking]. It's such a great feeling.
"I just got in here like a week ago, and I didn't expect any of this," Dante added of his recent diagnosis. "Thanksgiving and now all of this, starting up the chemo for a couple of years, it's a lot to take in. But all the support that everybody's been giving me and everything is perfect. It's unmatched; I've never, ever felt anything like this."
Diggs presented Dante with one more surprise, a CenturyLink BoostBox. Inside the box were a number of gifts, including an autographed Diggs jersey, Vikings stocking cap and an iPad. The receiver then interacted quietly with Dante and Yolanda, offering his support during an uncertain time and exchanging multiple hugs with both of them.
Dante repeatedly expressed his gratitude.
"It's overwhelming, still surreal," Dante said. "I didn't know any of this was going to happen."
Even in the midst of a busy and successful football season, the decision to spend part of an off day – which included an icy commute – at the hospital with patients and their families came easily to Diggs.
"For the position that we are in, we're definitely fortunate, and a lot of kids who are not in as fortunate of a position, they need a little extra love," Diggs said. "And when you do have time, you should be able to give back, you should go the extra mile for them … pay it forward."
Prior to surprising Dante, Diggs paid a special room visit to 13-year-old Jack, who is going through a second cancer battle.
Despite not feeling well, Jack was all smiles when he spotted one of his favorite Vikings players.
"How you all doing?" Diggs asked, greeting Jack along with his younger brothers, Evan and Drew, and their parents. "I brought some presents."
Jack received a CenturyLink BoostBox as well, filled with purple No. 14 jerseys for him and his brothers, an iPad and a Vikings scarf and stocking cap. Diggs spent nearly 30 minutes chatting with Jack and his family and suggested another visit to play *Madden *on an Xbox that Jack also was gifted from the receiver.
"They just want to have fun, chill a little bit. I've had siblings all my life, too, so I've been pushed around a little bit and done a little bit of the pushing," Diggs said. "I love kids. I feel like we have a lot in common; I'm still a kid at heart a little bit."
Jack talked with Diggs about the Vikings games he has watched this season and said it was "hard to pick his favorite player" because there's so much talent on this year's team. He showed Diggs a Vikings license plate that had been autographed by Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd and Marcus Sherels on previous hospital visits, and Diggs added his signature to the collection.
It was clear the morning came easily to Diggs, who joked that he "had time to convince" Jack to choose him as his favorite player before the visit was over.
"It's the holiday season, and to see a kid go through a tough time, and not only the kid but their family, is rough," Diggs said. "But for me to come out here and be a part of something special, to give some joy or a little bit of something to smile about is definitely heartwarming to me. Hopefully it cheers them up a little bit.
"I've been through a lot of times where my mom's never left my back, and my little brothers always have my back," Diggs later added. "So to come in here, the kids who are going through a lot or going through some adversity, hopefully I can just give them a little bit of extra encouragement and a little bit of love. Love conquers all."