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Vikings to Raise Awareness Through ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ Campaign

EAGAN, Minn. – When the Vikings host the Dolphins on Dec. 16, their feet will promote causes close to their hearts.

Forty-eight Vikings players will don custom-designed cleats that have been recently unveiled to each athlete. The footwear is painted to represent respective causes of the players’ choices and are part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative.

Among the causes represented are some players’ personal foundations or charities, including The Thielen Foundation and the Raise the Barr Foundation.

Others include causes with which players have personal or long-lasting connections to.

Linebacker Kentrell Brothers and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson each will honor immediate family members with their cleats.

When Brothers was a senior at Missouri and preparing for the NFL Draft, he was contacted by his mother, who told him she was experiencing dizziness and tingling of her arms. After undergoing tests, she learned that she had Chiari Malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal.

“I definitely didn’t have any idea [what it was], and she didn’t, either,” Brothers said. “As an NFL player, I have the opportunity with my platform to spread awareness about a disease that a lot of people don’t know about.”

Brothers’ mother has since undergone surgery to treat the condition. Shortly after the surgery, her sister was also diagnosed with Chiari.

Brothers hopes to continue educating himself about the condition while also expanding understanding for others. He is grateful for the NFL giving players the window of opportunity through My Cause, My Cleats.

“Knowing people will be watching us and their favorite players, whether it’s me or somebody else, as long as they see somebody’s cleats and learn about one of the foundations … I feel like that’s a win-win,” Brothers said.

Robinson’s cleats feature interlocking puzzle pieces and promote the Autism Speaks organization in honor of his younger brother.

“When you think of autism, you think of somebody who doesn’t quite have it all together. And these cleats, the puzzle pieces are all put together. It just speaks a lot about how you should see them,” Robinson said. “They might not have it all together, but you should see them as normal people.

“We see him the same as anybody else. And that’s how we hope that everybody in the world sees him, as a normal kid,” Robinson added. “Just because he has autism doesn’t make him different; he has a circumstance, but he’s still normal in [our] eyes.”

Below is the current list of Vikings who will raise awareness with the help of their cleats:

RB Ameer Abdullah | Black Youth Project | Social Justice

The Black Youth Project will examine the attitudes, resources and culture of the young, urban black millennial, exploring how these factors and others influence their decision-making, norms and behavior in critical domains such as sex, health and politics.

CB Mackensie Alexander | Special Olympics | Special Needs

Alexander volunteered at a Special Olympics community event and had a wonderful time serving and coaching the youth.

K Dan Bailey | Muscular Dystrophy Association | Health

MDA is a nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research.

While no one in his immediate family is affected by MD, Bailey has a number of friends or family acquaintances who have had children with the disease.

“There are a ton of things to support out there, but for me, I’ve had some interaction with MD over the years and understand how it affects the families and kids,” said Bailey, who is participating in My Cause, My Cleats for the first time.

“The platform is there, so why not use it? Especially with how visible things are now with social media,” Bailey said. “[Players are] taking pictures of them and posting pictures on whatever. So I think the platform’s grown in that sense, and I think it’s great that the league gives us an opportunity to put our own … flare on it, but even more so, bringing attention to these important causes.”

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LB Anthony Barr | Raise the Barr Foundation | Supporting single mothers

Raised by a single mother himself, Barr started his foundation to “break the cycle of poverty for low-income, single-parent families” by providing resources for single parents to access a post-secondary education or certification.

WR Chad Beebe | Freedom Firm | Sex trafficking

Freedom Firm seeks to eliminate child prostitution in India by providing rescue, restoration and justice. The program holds a fundraising banquet in Beebe’s home state of Illinois, and his father, former NFL receiver Don Beebe, has served as a keynote speaker at the event.

“That’s kind of how it started for me,” Beebe said of his connection to Freedom Firm. “The biggest thing, though, is bringing more awareness to it. I think [sex trafficking is] something that’s not talked about a lot, and it’s pretty big even in the United States.”

RB Mike Boone | American Cancer Society | Cancer

Boone is passionate about supporting his local American Cancer Society.

DE Tashawn Bower | American Cancer Society | Cancer

Bower is passionate about the local American Cancer Society and is proud to support the organization on his cleats.

LB Kentrell Brothers | Chiari and Syringomyelia Foundation | Health and wellness

Brothers’ mother was recently diagnosed and had surgery for Chiari. His aunt also is receiving treatment for the disease.

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TE Tyler Conklin | KnowResolve | Youth suicide prevention and awareness

KnowResolve is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting mental health and preventing youth suicides through outreach, advocacy and education. Conklin’s mother is a volunteer for the organization.

RB Dalvin Cook | Minnesota Vikings Foundation | Youth development

The Minnesota Vikings Foundation echoes Cook’s passion to help the local youth that the foundation serves around Minneapolis and St. Paul.

QB Kirk Cousins | Urban Homeworks | Community Development

Urban Homeworks is one of the organizations that Cousins and his wife support through the Julie & Kirk Cousins Foundation. Located in Minneapolis, the program transforms vacant properties into dignified housing, engaging people in what their neighborhoods look like and promoting an active form of neighboring.

WR Stefon Diggs | American Heart Association | Heart disease

Diggs plans to raise awareness for the American Heart Association by once again supporting the organization for his My Cause, My Cleats cause of choice.

LB Devante Downs | American Cancer Society | Cancer

Downs is passionate about serving his local American Cancer Society.

C Pat Elflein | Crescent Cove | Children’s health / hospice

Crescent Cove offers care and support to children and young adults with a shortened life expectancy and their families. It is Minnesota’s first and only home designed just for children and their unique needs.

Elflein was made aware of Crescent Cove and visited the facility with his fiancée. It was after their visit that he felt strongly about supporting the program.

“It was an incredible place. The work the people do there and the vibe that they create – I could feel it right when I walked in the door. It’s sad and unfortunate situations that the kids are in, but it was an immediate feeling of happiness when you walked into the home. For the people at Crescent Cove to create an environment like that for kids who are at end of life, it was something very special for me to witness, and I’m happy to represent them.”

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LB Ben Gedeon | Navy Special Operations Foundation | Military

The Navy Special Operations Foundation hits close to home for Gedeon, whose brother serves in the U.S. Navy.

DE Everson Griffen | American Cancer Society | Breast cancer

Griffen’s mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor, and he has been a long-term supporter of the American Cancer Society.

FB C.J. Ham | Boys & Girls Clubs | Youth development

Ham grew up going to the Boys & Girls Clubs every day. Being bullied as a child gave him the inspiration to help other young people who are bullied.

S Anthony Harris | One Love Foundation | Domestic violence

Yeardley Love, the victim that the One Love Foundation was founded in memory of, was a student at Harris’ alma mater, Virginia. Harris wants to help raise awareness because he believes no one should become the victim of domestic violence.

CB Holton Hill | Pancreatic Cancer Action Network / American Heart Association | Health

Pancreatic cancer and heart disease carry weight with Hill, who has people close to him who have been affected by each.

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T Rashod Hill | Starkey Hearing Foundation | Hearing impaired

Starkey Hearing Foundation uses hearing to show kindness and compassion in others, in addition to changing lives around the world. The foundation has pledged to provide more than one million hearing aids this decade to those in need.

Hill’s daughter, Codie, is hearing-impaired, and she was recently fitted with a hearing aid by Starkey.

DT Jalyn Holmes | Option2, Inc. | Student athletes

Option2 is a nonprofit educational program dedicated to providing services that will help student-athletes excel in life with or without sports. Option2 holds a special place in Holmes’ heart because it works to create a society in which every student athlete, regardless of background, understands the importance of integrity, academics and having other outlets available.

DE Danielle Hunter | Boys & Girls Clubs | Youth Development

Hunter spends free time giving back to Boys & Girls Clubs in the Twin Cities.

DT Jaleel Johnson | Boys & Girls Clubs | Youth Development

Johnson is passionate about supporting underserved youth through the Boys & Girls Clubs.

C Brett Jones | Best Buddies | Special needs

Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Jones has a close relationship with his local Best Buddies organization in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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DT Linval Joseph | Bully the Bull | Anti-bullying

As someone who experienced bullying when he was younger, Joseph is passionate about using his platform to stop bullying across all ages. The defensive tackle recently started supporting Bully the Bull, a character that travels to schools around the country to promote an anti-bullying message.

“It’s starting to become a bigger [message], and that’s all we’re trying to do,” Joseph said. “We’re trying to make the world a safer place.”

S Jayron Kearse | Big Brothers Big Sisters | Youth mentoring

Kearse enjoys finding time to volunteer and serve his local Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities program.

LB Eric Kendricks | The Sheridan Story / Sacks for Kids | Childhood hunger

Each season, Kendricks teams up with The Sheridan Story to launch “Sacks for Kids,” a campaign to raise money for local weekend food programs. This season, the linebacker championed “Sacktober” and asked fans to pledge a dollar amount for each sack the Vikings logged during the month of October.

LS Kevin McDermott | American Indian College Fund | Post-secondary education

Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native students’ access to higher education, consistently receiving top ratings from national independent charity evaluators.

McDermott’s parents grew up doing a lot of work on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and his cousin serves as the Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. Through that role, he focuses on Indian Affairs on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, the Lower Brule Indian Reservation and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

“I’ve spent time on the [Pine Ridge] reservation and have seen the need for funds for kids to get an education and go to college,” McDermott said. “I thought this year would be a good year to start supporting the cause.”

TE David Morgan | Le Sueur Sheriff’s Youth Project | Youth development

Morgan is a huge advocate for the Sheriff’s Youth Project, which strives to provide opportunities for youth who are in need. The organization’s objective is to provide youth with enhancements in their respective communities.

RB Latavius Murray | United Heroes League | Military

Murray, the Vikings Salute to Service nominee for 2018, is the second NFL player to serve as an ambassador for the United States Heroes League (Kyle Rudolph was the first). His fiancée, Shauntay Skanes, is proudly serving in the U.S. Navy, and Murray is passionate about supporting her as well as the nation’s military members and veterans.

T Storm Norton | Ronald McDonald House | Children’s health

Norton has spent time at his local Ronald McDonald House volunteering. RMHC provides vital resources and compassionate care to children and their families being served by leading hospitals worldwide.

T Brian O’Neill | Special Olympics | Special needs

O’Neill volunteered with Special Olympics during a Vikings community event earlier this season and is extremely invested in the cause. He also has plans to record public service announcements for the organization.

G Mike Remmers | Police Activities League | Youth Development

The Minneapolis Police Activities League is a nonprofit organization based on the philosophy that when given a choice, kids will choose to participate in positive character-building activities rather than committing crimes. PAL believes every child deserves a safe space to play.

CB Xavier Rhodes | Boys & Girls Clubs | Diversity and education

Rhodes is passionate about inner-city youth and children who may need more 1-on-1 attention. The cornerback hosts various events throughout the season that benefit young people and believes in building strong relationships with youth.

DT Sheldon Richardson | Minnesota Vikings Foundation | Youth development

The Vikings have felt like home to Richardson, who chose the Minnesota Vikings Foundation to honor the youth and mission that the foundation carries out around the Twin Cities.

WR Aldrick Robinson | Autism Speaks | Autism awareness

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

Robinson’s younger brother is autistic, and he is wearing cleats to honor him.

TE Kyle Rudolph | U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital | Children’s health

In addition to Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, the Rudolphs have supported numerous programs and events for hospital patients and families, and frequently visit the hospital, building connections with patients and families.

CB Marcus Sherels | Best Christmas Ever | Underserved communities

Best Christmas Ever is a nonprofit organization that works with community partners to lift up families who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own.

During the week of the Vikings-Saints matchup this season, Sherels teamed up with Saints punter Thomas Morstead and his foundation, What You Give Will Grow. The pair partnered to raise funds to support “Best Christmas Ever” families in Minnesota and the Greater New Orleans area.

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QB Kyle Sloter | Breaking Boundaries Foundation | Student athletes

Sloter is passionate about giving student-athletes the tools to succeed. The Breaking Boundaries Foundation’s mission is to empower students of all ages and give them a platform to showcase their academic and athletic success.

S Harrison Smith | Big Brothers Big Sisters | Youth development

Smith is continuing his support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities. The Vikings safety annually holds various activities in order to connect with the program’s youth and raise awareness and funds.

WR Adam Thielen | Thielen Foundation | Youth development

Adam and his wife, Caitlin, founded the Thielen Foundation and launched the nonprofit in September. The Thielens’ first partnership was with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and specifically the Pediatric Behavioral Health unit, the region’s largest and most comprehensive unit of its kind.

RB Roc Thomas | Boys & Girls Clubs | Youth development

Thomas spends free time giving back to the local Boys & Girls Clubs and is passionate about serving youth.

WR Laquon Treadwell | Boys & Girls Clubs / Feed My Starving Children | Youth Development

Treadwell spends his free time volunteering for underserved youth and also recently spent time packaging meals at Feed My Starving Children in Eagan.

CB Trae Waynes | Grace Centers of Hope | Substance abuse and homelessness

Grace Centers of Hope is a nonprofit, Christian organization committed to positively changing the lives of the unwanted, addicted and homeless through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, personal accountability, life skills education and work-related programs.

“My fiancée has volunteered at Grace Centers of Hope since she was young, and I became involved once I met her in college,” Waynes said. “Not only does GCH provide shelter to those that have lost everything due to addiction, but they also require the people enrolled to get their GED and work during the time they’re there.”

DE Stephen Weatherly | One Love Foundation | Relationship violence

Touched by his upbringing and affected by what he called a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship with his first girlfriend, Weatherly raised his hand when the One Love Foundation asked if any Vanderbilt athletes would be interested in leading a seminar about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The One Love Foundation was established after the murder of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love in 2010.

P Matt Wile | The Rescued Dog | Animal welfare

Wile and his girlfriend are passionate about animal welfare and adopted their own dog from The Rescued Dog shelter.

LB Eric Wilson | ACES | Education

Athletes Committed to Educating Students (ACES) works to reduce the academic achievement gap in the Twin Cities and improve the likelihood of success for underserved students.

Wilson is an active supporter of using sports as a tool to succeed in the classroom.

WR Brandon Zylstra | Adarius 4 Autism | Autism awareness

Adarius 4 Autism envisions a community where all people have the capability to create opportunities for themselves and others. The program assists youth diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by offering needs-based training to ease the transition to becoming a contributing member of society.

Zylstra’s teammate from the Canadian Football League, Adarius Bowman, is the president of the foundation.

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