Adam and his wife Caitlin Thielen sponsored five Salvation Army families at the Mall of America for an evening of gifts, food, visits from Nickelodeon Universe characters and access to Nickelodeon Universe.
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – A year after battling homelessness, Javonda Graham is now getting back on her feet but received a holiday surprise she won't soon forget.
Graham moved to the Twin Cities a year ago and struggled to afford housing until becoming involved with The Salvation Army's Pathway of Hope program.
The unique initiative provides individualized services to families with children who desire to break the cycle of crisis and poverty that repeats generationally.
Graham is currently fighting cancer. She has custody of her young grandchildren, including an infant born prematurely who requires oxygen treatment overnight, and is incredibly grateful to Pathway of Hope for its support.
"They help me with my housing and any kind of problems we need help with. They're such a good program," Graham said. "It could be the little things or the biggest things, and they don't mind helping you. I love the way they reach out to people to make sure we're OK, to make sure our family's OK.
"I love Pathways of Hope," she added. "They've been like a family to me. That's what they are – they are my family."
Graham and her grandchildren joined four other Pathway of Hope families at a special Christmas party at the Mall of America hosted by Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen; his wife, Caitlin; and their sons, Asher and Hudson.
The families enjoyed a catered dinner as well as time to casually and comfortably get to know the Thielens. Three-year-old Asher helped hand out gifts to unwrap, but the group learned that additional gift deliveries were being made to their homes. For many, the news invoked an emotional response.
"That's why we do it," Adam said. "Even just giving the time with these families and playing with the kids – they have no idea who I am and what I do, but it's just the fact that I'm playing with them, hanging out, talking to them, it's so fun for us and for them, as well."
Vikings 'Season of Giving'
Vikings players and coaches have hosted various holiday events in recent weeks to help give back to local communities.
Click here to learn more about their charitable efforts this holiday season.
Graham smiled as she watched one of her grandsons, Noah, unwrap new toy trucks and excitedly show them to Adam, who got down on the floor to play with the toddler.
"It was so special what they did for us," Graham said of the Thielens. "Adam sat with everybody, talked with everybody, making sure we're OK and that everybody has what they need. I thought that was so awesome of him.
"For him to come out and do that was very good," she added. "He has a beautiful family. His children are so sweet – they played with my grandson and everything."
In spending time with each individual, Adam connected with Nathan, who plays football – safety and wide receiver – at a local high school.
Without being prompted and away from any media attention, Adam talked with the young man and his mother and told them he would like to purchase a new pair of football cleats for Nathan, in addition to the previous gifts.
Nathan's mother embraced Adam and called the evening "the best Christmas we've ever had."
Adam later emphasized the importance of making those 1-on-1 connections.
"That's been very important to us with the Thielen Foundation – not just giving money or resources but really providing our time and getting to know people, getting to know kids on a personal level," Adam said. "Being able to ask him, 'Hey, do you play sports?' 'Yeah, I play football,' and just to be able to provide him with a little something extra. Nothing too crazy, but just for him to be able to look sweet on the football field, it's fun to be able to do that kind of stuff."
Kirk Cousins delivers Christmas cheer
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, Viktor the Viking and CenturyLink employees visited the Mt. Airy Boys & Girls Clubs for a special afternoon of holiday activities on Dec. 20.
Young people who had recently completed a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program offered through the club were able to walk alongside Cousins and pick out toys, books, watches and items for family members like hairdryers and clothing items, then have the gifts wrapped on site.
The young people also received footballs autographed by Cousins, who had represented Boys & Girls Clubs on Dec. 8 in the My Cause My Cleats game.
Cousins played ping-pong and helped other young people create holiday cards to send to soldiers overseas.
" 'Happy Skolidays,' I like that," Cousins mused.
In another room, youth piled gobs of icing on tree-shaped cookies.
"This was a chance to spend time with the kids and have fun right before Christmas, get them some nice gifts and share some laughs," Cousins said.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and CenturyLink employees visited the Mt. Airy Boys & Girls Clubs for a special afternoon of holiday activities.
Rhodes, Treadwell Continue Connection with Boys & Girls Clubs
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and receiver Laquon Treadwell share an ongoing commitment to Boys & Girls Clubs. Recently, the two made substantial financial donations to provide Christmas gifts for approximately 100 Twin Cities families who are part of the program.
Treadwell visited the Southside Boys & Girls Club in Minneapolis to hand out gifts and also spoke to the group of young people.
"I just basically told them it's always an honor and a privilege to come out here and give back," Treadwell said. "I tried to give them some positive advice and told them it was important to give back and why I'm here, my upbringing. A lot of people in the community helped us out around the holidays and Christmas, so it's always good to be that person."
Laquon Treadwell and the Vikings gifted families a variety of gifts for the holiday season at a local Boys and Girls Club.
Ham delivers holiday hams in Minneapolis
In addition to "adopting" a family and hosting a special Christmas party at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, Vikings fullback C.J. Ham helped donate meals for Minneapolis families.
It's only fitting that Ham helped hand out – you guessed it – hams in North Minneapolis on Dec. 20. He partnered with Hy-Vee and Hormel for the event that was part of a 2,600 ham holiday give-back initiative for Twin Cities families.