SHAKOPEE, Minn. — The Vikings helped the Salvation Army congratulate Shakopee Senior High School students who won the second annual Warm & Fed Challenge at a robust pep rally Tuesday afternoon.
The Warm & Fed Challenge is a community service initiative in which students at 10 high schools in the Metro area collected food and clothing items for the Salvation Army. This year, the school that collected the most items from Nov. 17-21 received a pep rally that was attended by Chad Greenway, Eden Prairie native Carter Bykowski and Viktor the Viking.
Greenway, who attended a South Dakota high school of about 90 students, told the school of nearly 1,600 how impressed he is by their commitment to helping others at such an early age. He said at their age his interests involved girls, sports and grades, adding "once in a while," in reference to the latter.
The linebacker, who is wrapping up his ninth season in Minnesota, is one of the most active Vikings in the Twin Cities through his Lead The Way Foundation that was established in 2008. It has raised more than $1.3 million to help pediatric patients and their families by providing entertainment devices to hospitals and through other supportive efforts. He also leads other initiatives and helps teammates' with their community service efforts.
Near the end of the rally, Vikings Director of Community Relations Brad Madson announced that Greenway had been selected as Vikings Community Man of the Year. Greenway, who also won the team award in 2011, will be considered for the league-wide Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
"People lose perspective on what's important, and I think helping your fellow man in anything you're trying to do, but for us, the small part we're trying to do as a family, as a foundation is our part," Greenway said during an interview. "We might be small in comparison to some organizations or some foundations, but it's important to us and big to us and the people and lives that we're touching and helping. It's a big day, and to get Man of the Year, we have a lot of great community guys on our team, and really in all sports in the Twin Cities, and we're proud to be a leading way for that."
Madson said Greenway immersed himself into community efforts from day one and has continued to expand his commitments.
"He just enjoys meeting people, meeting fans," Madson said. "As he did so many different community outreach projects, be it a blood drive or having a luncheon for cancer survivors or working with United Way with underprivileged kids, he kind of found his niche with his Lead The Way Foundation to focus on the needs of children and families facing serious medical conditions."
Jessica Dereschuk, 2004 Miss Minnesota USA and CEO with JD Style Group, worked with the Salvation Army on the idea for the Warm & Fed Challenge because she learned the merits of participating in service projects during her youth.
"I really wanted to use this as an opportunity to plant a seed in the youth because I think if you start young, chances are you'll continue to as an adult," Dereschuk said. "Knowing they're teenagers, we wanted to make it fun, so the involvement with the Vikings really adds to that, and having a grand prize pep rally with the Vikings. We're doing a lot of good, collecting so many items for the Salvation Army and letting the students see that donating and volunteerism can have its perks and be really fun as well."
Dereschuk said the schools collected more than 12,000 items this year, and Shakopee gathered more than 5,000 to help the Salvation Army's efforts of providing needs to people facing difficult challenges.
She said every participating school (Spring Lake Park, Edison, Robbinsdale Armstrong, Robbinsdale Cooper, Southwest and Roosevelt High Schools and Higher Ground, Nova Classical and River's Edge Academies) should be proud.
"We did this challenge last year and I got goose bumps, and being here today, the energy, when I look up and see two full sides of bleachers packed with students and they're so enthusiastic and put so much heart into it, I still get goose bumps," Dereschuk said. "It's really special to know that they wanted to win the pep rally, but they're doing it selflessly. They're not expecting anything in return, and to me, that's what this is about. The Salvation Army is truly a winner in it all."