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Vikings, U.S. Bank Donate $350K to Create Places to Play

SAINT PAUL –When Stefon Diggs visits his grandmother in Maryland, he makes sure to stop at the playground he spent hours at as a child.

"Having a place to play is very important – it's kind of what you need to grow up," Diggs said. "I used to stay at my grandmother's house a lot, so I used to play at that park."

Entering his third NFL season, Diggs still cherishes many memories he had there – even the difficult ones.

"Funny story – I broke my arm [there]," Diggs said with a laugh. "It wasn't my best day at the park, but I definitely remember it."

Diggs joined the Vikings and U.S. Bank on Monday for the announcement of the second round of U.S. Bank "Places to Play" grant recipients, who will receive a total of $350,000 to make possible projects that create or renovate parks, playgrounds and sports facilities in low- to moderate-income communities in Minnesota.

Diggs helped kick off the grant deliveries at The Sanneh Foundation, located at the Conway Community Center in East Saint Paul.

After speaking with media members, Diggs spent time playing flag football and soccer with a group of local youth at the community center for after-school activities.

Diggs said to be involved with the kickoff event was important to him.

"I was a kid once; we were all kids once," Diggs said. "Me having opportunity, personally, I'm happy. I love being around kids, love having a good time. But really just showing them, 'You can do whatever you want,' and it all starts on the playground."

Stefon Diggs joined the Vikings and U.S. Bank for the announcement of the second round of U.S. Bank "Places to Play" grant recipients, who will receive a total of $350,000.

Through the Places to Play program, which launched as part of the partnership for U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings and U.S. Bank are donating $1 million to community-based nonprofit organizations and local schools statewide over three years. 

"We believe in the power of play to connect and enrich our communities," said U.S. Bank Twin Cities Market President Phillip Trier, who played college football at St. John's University in Minnesota. "We're excited to break ground on this next round of projects, each of which creates opportunities for kids to learn, grow and make memories."

The Sanneh Foundation, founded by former U.S. National and Major League Soccer player Tony Sanneh, will use the funding to improve the center's gymnasium by upgrading the surface from the current tile and concrete to a wood gym floor. Renovating the gym space will keep participants healthy, safe and free from injury, as well as help contribute to an atmosphere of positive self-worth promoted at Conway Community Center.

"The east side of Saint Paul really needs it," Sanneh said of the grant and planned improvements. "And to see industry leaders, and people [that we] look up to, like U.S. Bank and the Minnesota Vikings, invest in us, brings a lot of trust to the community. Kids want to come here, it's a safe play space, so we couldn't be more thankful, and there's no better way to kick off a project like this."

Added Sanneh: "Hopefully, this is our version of U.S. Bank Stadium."

Below are additional Minnesota recreation locations that will benefit from the Places to Play grant.

• Also in St. Paul, St. Paul Urban Tennis is adding six courts to Eastview Park Tennis Complex, to provide positive activity in parks that engage youth and families in healthy activity and teach character development through a lifetime sport.

• Gideon Pond Elementary in Burnsville is designing a truly inclusive/barrier-free playground – one that would be the first of its kind in Burnsville. The playground will include signature equipment pieces that are easily accessible and safe for students of all ability levels.

• Similarly, Talahi Community School in St. Cloud is improving its playground to make a difference in the lives of children, especially those with disabilities, by providing them a safe, accessible place to play. In addition to a playground, a sand table and fossil pit will provide children with a sensory experience that is critical to learning.

• Mower County Senior Center in Austin is replacing the current modular play equipment and adding adult exercise equipment which will allow intergenerational groups a safe, accessible, enjoyable place to play and gather.

• Warren/Alvarado/Oslo School District is building a new activity complex that will include a warming area, locker rooms and a snack bar. Warren is a regional center and the new, steel complex will provide a center for area youth to gather.

• Springbrook Nature Center Foundation in Fridley is a nature-based play area featuring elements such as crawling logs, animal sculptures and boulders which will provide a place to introduce children to nature in a way that is fun, creative and experiential.

• Catholic Charities in St. Cloud will renovate South Side Community Playground, replacing the deteriorating and outdated play structures, update/repair ground surfaces and improve landscaping. The playground will be safer and provide more green space for this community to rest and play.

• Tracy Area Public Schools in Tracy is building a new playground which will better serve younger students and kids in Tracy, including those that attend the community daycare and preschool. The playground will feature themed pieces to enhance imaginative play, including a fire station, bank and police station as well as padded surface imprinted with street crossings.

The third and final round of grant applications will be open later this summer. More information at ****.

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