ST. PAUL — Louis Abraham is about to enter the fifth grade and has dreams of becoming an animator.
The 9-year-old will have some help with that dream based on what was inside the backpack he received Tuesday afternoon.
Louis was among the nearly 100 young people who were given a backpack filled with school supplies, plus an autographed football, from Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer at The Salvation Army in St. Paul.
"I got some folders … a notebook … a lunch bag, a pencil bag," Louis said. "Also, there's some markers in here. And some rulers.
"Now during free time I can start practicing all my comics," he added.
Zimmer handed out the backpacks on a day off for Vikings players from training camp. His daughter, Corri Zimmer-White, who runs the Mike Zimmer Foundation, packed the backpacks to help the kids get off to a good start in school this fall.
"We always want to do things for the kids in the Twin Cities and help them the best we can," Zimmer said. "It's great for these guys to start off the school year right, so whatever we can do to help them with education and sports and physical activity, we really want to try to do it.
"People care, and we care about the youth of the Twin Cities, and we want them to do their very best," Zimmer added.
Lt. Mona Taube, who runs The Salvation Army in St. Paul, said the organization is grateful for Zimmer's time, dedication and commitment to the kids.
Many families, Taube noted, appreciate the financial aspect of getting the school supplies.
"It's a thrilling opportunity for our families and our kids to meet someone like Coach Mike and see the impact he has on their daily lives," Taube said. "For our families, it means that their hearts can be a little more settled and happy knowing their ready to push their kids to the next level in this school year coming up.
"Many of them do have the need of school supplies and have not been able to complete their back-to-school shopping yet," Taube said. "They've been so excited knowing some of those supplies are provided. A lot of our families were holding out because they knew this gift was coming from the heart from Mike Zimmer."
Perhaps Zimmer's favorite part of the afternoon was interacting with the kids, even if it meant providing a reassuring hug in the presence of Viktor the Viking.
"It was really fun today. One kid was scared of Viktor, so I had to hug her and make sure she was all right," Zimmer said with a laugh. "One of my daughters was scared of mascots, too, so I knew exactly what she was doing."
Besides the school supplies, Louis said he also planned to make good use of the football, even if it has Zimmer's signature on it.
"Well, I got a free football so I can actually play with my friends. I don't have any footballs at home," Louis said.
Zimmer wrapped up the afternoon with a message of positivity.
"Get good grades, study hard and listen to your moms," Zimmer encouraged the group. "Make sure you always pay attention and get outside and play sports.
"And make sure you cheer for the Vikings," Zimmer added.