Adam Thielen, Zach Line and Cedric Thompson spent Tuesday at the downtown shelter visiting with residents, signing autographs and helping to give away Vikings memorabilia at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.
It was a cold day in Minneapolis, but members of the Vikings received a warm welcome Tuesday from residents of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.
Adam Thielen, Zach Line and Cedric Thompson spent part of their off day at the downtown shelter visiting with residents, signing autographs and helping to give away Vikings memorabilia. The three current players were joined by Vikings alumni Ryan Hoag, Rickey Young, Tuineau Alipate and Benny Sapp, Viktor the Vikings and Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders.
As each Vikings guest entered and introduced himself, the residents robustly cheered before jumping in for selfies and obtaining autographs.
"You always know [an event like this] is going to be special," Line said. "It's been a fun event today."
Although he owns a home in Michigan, Line said he feels more and more like a resident of Minnesota and part of its culture. He's also grown accustomed to the state's weather.
"It's definitely cold here," Line said. "It's nice to get out of the cold and get everybody in here for something like this."
The Harbor Light Center is the largest single-adult shelter in the State of Minnesota.
According to Captain Katherine Clausell of The Salvation Army, the shelter serves approximately 450-500 adults on any given night. During the winter months, the facility offers "crisis winter overflow" and increases the number served by up to 150.
"There's a lot of need here, but there's a lot of hope, as well," Clausell said.
Clausell said The Salvation Army is incredibly grateful for a long-standing relationship with the Minnesota Vikings.
"For many years, the Vikings have come to help spread some joy and to lift the spirits of our residents," Clausell said. "They can get really down about their circumstances, but they love their team, their Vikings."
During Tuesday's event, each of the residents who attended received a numbered ticket, and the Vikings guests took turns drawing numbers for giveaways. By the end of the afternoon, all the residents had received a token of purple and gold, from stocking caps to jackets.
No matter what item was handed out, each resident expressed gratitude for the gift. One woman could barely contain her excitement as she ran to the front of the room to receive a hat.
Clausell hopes to fight against certain generalizations about people struggling with poverty.
"There's [often] a misconception that people feel entitled or don't appreciate what the community at large does for them, but we have not experienced that here," Clausell said. "Our folks are quick to say 'please' and 'thank you' and show their excitement and appreciation for even the little things that people do for us. So we're just so grateful. To me, this is monumental, and they're showing their spirit."
Thielen, a native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, was accompanied by his wife, Caitlin, and infant son, Asher. Thielen said he felt especially impacted through giving back to the community of Minnesota.
"It's huge for me," Thielen said. "Being able to come out to these events and just seeing the faces of these people and how excited they are to see us and get some gear."
Added Thielen: "Especially at this time of year, around Christmas time, to see smiles on people's faces is just awesome."
Clausell said the impact of having homegrown players like Hoag and Thielen present was even more impactful on the residents than on the athletes themselves.
"It's really wonderful to have Vikings players who are from here," Clausell said. "It's about coming home. 'Home' is an important concept for people who are experiencing homelessness, so to hear the stories of those who were from Minnesota and got the opportunity to play on their home team, that's fantastic."