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Vikings in the Community: Event Helps Hungry; Visits Support Pediatric Patients

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and the Vikings Table distributed free healthy meals to local youth this week.

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. – Before Dalvin Cook laced up his cleats for Sunday's win over the Falcons, he donned an apron and got to work in the community.

Nicknamed "The Chef," Cook has partnered with Vikings Table, a custom-built food truck that serves free, healthy meals to youth across the Twin Cities community on behalf of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation.

Last Tuesday, the running back stepped inside the truck and served meals to a community less than four miles from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. Cook pointed out the "hidden" nature of the tucked-away neighborhood a short drive from where he practices, and he said that providing food for underprivileged families hits close to home.

"To help some of these families get meals for their children and their families, it's a great opportunity for me to show where I came from and show that I'm real serious about this thing," Cook said.

The Vikings joined efforts with local nonprofit The Open Door, which has been setting up a weekly fresh produce giveaway in the community for three years. The Open Door Executive Director Jason Viana said he appreciated the intentional and strategic partnership.

"For an organization of our size, it would be very easy for the Vikings to come in and squish us, to do what they wanted to do," said Viana. "But I feel like both [Executive Director of Social Impact] Brett [Taber] and [Foundation Programs Coordinator] Monterae [Carter] have taken such remarkable steps to be considerate of that, even to the point of, 'How do we promote this?' to ensure that it is just for the folks in this community.

"They wanted to complement the work that we were already doing, and I think they've done a really, really good job of making sure that was the case," Viana said.

He explained that The Open Door produce stands are designed to make fresh and healthy food available and accessible for isolated areas. Many of the low-income residents of the targeted areas do not have a means of transportation, and there are no grocery stores located nearby.

"We bring anywhere from 8,000-10,000 pounds of farm-fresh produce every week and make it available to anyone in this community who needs it," Viana said. "We average 100-120 households a week that come here to get their fresh produce."

After families picked up their produce, they were able to stop by the food truck for tacos and fruit and, of course, a photograph with Cook.

The running back was joined at the distribution window by Cooper Manning, the older brother of Peyton and Eli, who hosted a feature for FOX NFL Kickoff. Cook said he was grateful to FOX for capturing who he is off of the field.

He referenced a mother and daughter who approached Cook and appreciated the opportunity to personally meet him.

"[She said], 'We don't know you guys because you always have helmets on,' " Cook relayed. "They don't really get to see who we are under the helmet. Events like this, just getting out and interacting with the people, it can kind of show a different side."

Vikings players visited with children from Crescent Cove Respite & Hospice Home for Kids. Crescent Cove offers care and support to children and young adults with a shortened life-expectancy.

Vikings Offensive Linemen Pay Special Visit to Crescent Cove | by Eric Smith

A trio of Vikings offensive linemen paid a recent visit to Crescent Cove Respite & Hospice Home for Kids, and they helped turn the day into a fun-filled adventure.

Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury and Aviante Collins brought smiles and joy to a handful of children and their families last Tuesday by spending an afternoon with them that included arts and crafts, disc golf, friendly conversations and a canoe ride.

Elflein had worked with Crescent Cove in the past and invited his teammates along for the inspiring day.

"It's been an incredible experience to work with Crescent Cove," Elflein said. "I first started working with them last year during 'My Cause, My Cleats,' but I've grown to build a relationship with them and all the people that stay here and work here.

"It's an incredible organization that gives so much back to the community," Elflein added. "To be able to be a part of that, and for my fellow teammates to come hang out with the kids and families, it's been awesome."

Crescent Cove offers care and support to children and young adults with a shortened life expectancy. The organization is fully funded by donations.

A group from Crescent Cove visited Verizon Vikings Training Camp in August, and Elflein re-connected with a young fan on Tuesday afternoon. The left guard also went on a quick canoe ride with another child around the lake that borders the facility.

The visit was Bradbury's first taste of Community Tuesdays with the Vikings, and the rookie center said he was already looking forward to more involvement.

"They put a huge importance on [community work]," Bradbury said of the Vikings. "It's awesome to come out here with teammates and put smiles on these kids' faces."

"This is an hour or two of our time, but there are awesome nurses and people running [Crescent Cove] 24/7," Bradbury added. "If we can come out here and spend some time with the kids and put a few smiles on their faces, then that's why we're here."

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph and WR Adam Thielen were on the panel at the Minnesota Sports All-Access Kids Press Conference at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

Thielen, Rudolph participate in 'kids press conference'

The Vikings have a longstanding relationship with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, and teammates Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph – along with their families – have an especially deep commitment to the young patients and their families.

Last week, Rudolph and Thielen participated in a "kids press conference" in the Wilf Family Center, during which they fielded questions from young people in the audience.

This particular event was unique, however, in that it included other Minnesota athletes, as well: Marcus Foligno and Jason Zucker from the Wild, Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, United defender Ike Opara, former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie and Golden Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck, who made a grand entrance.

"Those are always very cool moments for me. Seeing these kids have a smile on their face who are in really tough spots, it kind of changes your perspective on life, and I really enjoy doing those things," Thielen said. "I think the highlight of my time there was having to sing the 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' with [other Minnesota athletes], so that was pretty exciting."

"My wife always gives me a hard time because we sing our son different songs, and I always mess up, like, three or four words," Thielen added with a laugh. "I'm sure I messed up some little word here or there, but it was fun."

Joseph gives back to school support

Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph has been active in his efforts against bullying, and he recently gave back to local youth.

Joseph, Shamar Stephen and Danielle Hunter spent time in Brooklyn Park meeting fans and giving away backpacks for youngsters getting ready to return to school.