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Vikings in the Community: Alexander Mattison Rushes to Give Back


BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – Alexander Mattison had barely gotten out of the car before a pint-sized Vikings fan zoomed up to the running back and wrapped his legs in a hug.

Mattison smiled and kneeled down to return the embrace, soon being surrounded by other youngsters.

The reception at Garden City Elementary School was a warm one for No. 2, who's taken over the No. 1 Vikings running back spot in 2023. And as Mattison is taking the new on-field responsibility seriously, he's only increasing his off-field efforts, as well.

Mattison on Wednesday hosted a "Rush to Give Back" event at Garden City's back-to-school open house. His I AM GIFTED foundation partnered with The Salvation Army to provide backpacks filled with school supplies, as well as new Bombas socks and Crocs shoes for students aged Pre-K through fifth grade. Additionally, students could receive free haircuts on-site to get freshened up for the new school year.

"It's an amazing thing for us to be able to do this. Partnering with The Salvation Army was big for us to be able to give back in this capacity, with the quality of things we're able to give out. It just means a lot to be able to bless this many families," Mattison said.

"I don't really miss going to school," he added, laughing. "But you miss those days of getting some new things and starting the school year off the right way. … I remember those days – you get a fresh backpack, a fresh notebook and pencils, and you just kind of feel right going into school. It's awesome."

Garden City Elementary Principal David Branch emphasized the event's impact, noting that 87 percent of students currently attending the school are on free or reduced lunch programs.

"This helps our families take a lot of stress and worry off in terms of finances … when you look [at everything students are receiving], if you add that up and you might have four or five kids, that's a lot of money," Branch said. "This is truly a big deal for our families."

Mattison addressed the students at the event's beginning, reminding them that he was in their shoes at one point and related to their experience. He also encouraged the young people – in an age-appropriate manner – to attend to their mental health.

"I'm just letting them know, 'You matter, and you're not alone,' " said Mattison, who passed out wristbands with that messaging. "There's days where you don't feel the best; there's days where you feel your back's up against the wall. Just know that you're not alone in that feeling, that I've been there before and that I'm on the other side of it. There's light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to be willing to talk to someone – whether that's your brother, whether that's your friend, whether that's your parents – whoever it might be, don't be afraid to talk to somebody."

View photos of Vikings running back Alexander Mattison's Rush to Give Back event hosted by his personal foundation I AM GIFTED in partnership with The Salvation Army at Garden City Elementary School.

Mattison's mother Pearl attended the event, as well, and looked on proudly in her bright pink I AM GIFTED T-shirt.

Pearl is consistently involved with Mattison's foundation events in Minnesota, Idaho and California and said each one brings a smile to her face.

"Words can't explain it. I'm so excited for the fact that he looks back at how he grew up and now says, 'OK, I want to do something. If I can just touch one kid's life, it's worth it,' " Pearl said. "And then to be an advocate for mental health, to let everyone know that they're not alone. … To let them know, 'You are loved.' "

Seeing the way young people automatically trust Mattison and shower him with hugs and high-fives, she said, touches her heart.

"Oh my gosh," Pearl said, emotion in her voice. "To see them at a young age, recognizing somebody that's doing something positive, hopefully that will be a memory and something that's lasting so they can find their own gift and share it with everyone else."

Mattison hopes to demonstrate that he and his Vikings teammates are just like everyone else.

"I [want to change any] stigma of us being big, macho men and having a scary, intimidating [persona] as a professional football player," he said. "It does mean a lot that these kids can look up to me.

"We're trying to spread love and positivity, and they showed me so much love in return," Mattison added. "It's just awesome to be here."

With 90 percent of Garden City made up of families of color, Branch especially appreciated the representation shown by Mattison and two Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders who also attended.

"The impact is multilayered. Yes, Alexander is a Viking; he is a celebrity. But his lived experience really connects to many of our students, in terms of some of the challenges he faced," Branch said. "Having someone who's a role model in the community actually show up, be here, spend time and be extremely down to earth with families is a big deal.

"As a Black male myself, having another Black male come in and provide this message and provide this lovely support, it's huge," Branch added. "To see somebody leading in this capacity means the world."

Brandon Powell gives back in hometown & new home

Vikings receiver Brandon Powell isn't wasting any time getting involved in his new Minnesota community.

Last week, Powell partnered with the Kids in Need Foundation to host a back-to-school open house celebration for students at Fraser Early Childhood Family Development Center.

Brandon Powell Collage

Families and students had the opportunity to tour the center and meet their teachers for the 2023-24 school year, while Powell helped hand out free backpacks filled with folders, notebooks, pencils, markers and more. The event also included a food truck, as well as a coloring station, face painting and a friendship-bracelet-making area.

Powell hosted the Twin Cities event shortly after holding the "Powell Legacy Back to School Bash" in his hometown of Deerfield Beach, Florida.