EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Children ran, threw footballs and met Vikings players, smiling all along the way.
Simply put, they felt right at home in the Winter Park Fieldhouse as hundreds enjoyed the annual Adoption Fun Fest hosted by Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski.
Spielman and his wife have adopted six children, and Brzezinski and his wife have adopted five. Spielman said the event and this time of year is a "great time to celebrate what family is all about."
The attendees included Joe Berger, his wife Abby, and their four children. The Bergers have had two children through births and adopted two and felt the love immediately between all.
The Bergers planned on having a big family when they got married and were led to adoption. They attended a meeting to learn more information and decided to do so. Joe and Abby adopted an infant earlier this year for their fourth child.
"It just seemed like it was something that was right for our family," Joe said. "Through that process, we were able to adopt Blake, and a few years later, Ella kind of came into our lives unexpectedly, which was a wonderful gift.
"Then, just recently, we heard about Macy," Joe added. "It was something we weren't really planning on but were kind of open to, and we were able to work through that process and adopt Macy. It's great. I can't imagine life without any of them."
Abby's father grew up in an orphanage in Ireland. He aged out of the system at 16 and "was kind of released into the world to fight for himself. It was awful."
Her father fell on hard times but didn't stay down.
"He never had a role model, but he accepted Christ as his savior and was a wonderful role model. He passed away three years ago, but he was the best dad anyone could have asked for.
"When I was a little girl I would tell him, 'Daddy, I would have adopted you,' " Abby explained. "It was something that was very close to my heart, but through infertility, Joe came to the same place.
"It's amazing to look at our family now, I never could have imagined when we got married what it would be," Abby added. "I always dreamed of having four kids but never knew if that would be possible or not."
General Manager Rick Spielman and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski hosted the Vikings annual 'Adoption Family Fun Fest' at Winter Park on Tuesday. Dec. 6.
Joe's eyes twinkle, and a broad smile emerges from his bushy blond beard when he speaks of the joys of parenting. He said things have worked out beyond what he expected, similar to his 12-season career in the NFL that includes the past six with the Vikings.
"It's great, when you're first married, you think, 'I want this many kids, and this is how we're going to get them and we're going to time it all out,' " Joe explained. "The reality is it doesn't work that way for everybody, and we're an example of that. I think just being patient and waiting on God's plan to grow the family.
"At the end of the day, we have four kids spaced out three years apart that have come in different ways but are all fun stories," he added. "We couldn't have planned it better ourselves."
Berger was joined by teammates Cordarrelle Patterson, Jeremiah Sirles, David Morgan, Anthony Harris, Mackensie Alexander and Tre Roberson, as well as Vikings Legends Dave Osborn, Rickey Young, Bob Lurtsema, John Turner and Benny Sapp.
Chief Deputy Brett Mason, Chairman of the Le Sueur County **Sheriff’s Youth Project**, and Vice-Chairman Dave Gliszinski, were on hand to present the Vikings Children's Fund with a check for $15,000 to support adoption service agencies.
As an added bonus and complete surprise, Joe Fox and Toni Deutschlander with the **Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation*** *announced that every child would receive a custom-fit bicycle and helmet as part of that organization's "Bikes for Kids" program.
"We think every kid deserves a bike," Fox said. "At this time of year, I think there's no greater thing you can do than to put a smile on a kid's face with a new bike. Everybody remembers their first bike."
The young people screamed with excitement and even tried out a couple of the sample bikes, riding across the fieldhouse turf.
It was a quite the sight for Spielman.
"Every year, it's amazing how many people come forward to contribute to this event, with a $15,000 donation," Spielman said. "Now [Executive Director of Community Relations/Youth Football] Brad Madson finding an organization who was willing to donate bikes for every kid.
"Sometimes you take things for granted," Spielman added, "but when you see the expression on these kids' faces the first time they got a bike and a helmet, it puts things in perspective pretty quickly for you."