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Vikings, United Way Team Up for 18th Hometown Huddle

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Young people ran, sprinted and found a fun way to help others on Tuesday during the 18th annual NFL-United Way Hometown Huddle.

The **Greater Twin Cities United Way** brought in students in fourth through eighth grades from five different community organizations — Camp Fire Minnesota, ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students), S.M.A.R.T. Nations, Minneapolis American Indian Center, YMCA — for a youth football and character education clinic hosted by the Vikings at Winter Park.

Vikings Youth Football Manager E.J. Henderson led the clinic with help from current players Jeff Locke, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Jayron Kearse, Edmond Robinson, Isaac Fruechte, Toby Johnson and C.J. Ham.

Two young ladies read essays about respect and appreciation, and they were awarded free Vikings tickets for their essays.

Treadwell, a native of Chicagoland who is in his first season in Minnesota, said he was impressed by the essays and enjoyed the event.

"I think it's great to give back to the community and show the kids our appreciation to them," Treadwell said. "The kids spoke on respect and appreciation, so I think it's big to show the community that we love their support because we wouldn't be privileged to do the things we can do if not for our fans.

"We've got to show our appreciation, and I think it's always good to give back to the youth," Treadwell continued. "That's the next generation. They're going to impact the world and this community as they grow with the things they do. We've just got to set a good image for the youth and hopefully they'll keep it going."

The cycle has continued. Treadwell said seeing Stefon Diggs participate in the 2015 Hometown Huddle prompted his interest in participating this year.

In addition to football drills, the young people also made fitness kits for themselves and students in the programs who were not able to make it to the event.

Locke led the effort with enthusiasm, continuing the relationship he's developed with ACES students through frequent volunteering. The young people picked up a Vikings drawstring bag, sprinted to gather a jump rope, then a water bottle and finally a football for each kit in a fun assembly line.

The event and league-wide day of service was part of an overarching, 43-year relationship between the NFL and the United Way.

"We're very excited to be part of this," said Darren Josephson, a business relationship manager at Greater Twin Cities United Way. "It's the 18th year for this market, so we're very excited to have the Vikings host us and have E.J. and current players run them through the drills. It's a lot of excitement to have about 100 kids here from five different organizations."

Josephson said the Greater Twin Cities United Way partners with more than 175 agencies and on multiple programs within those agencies.

"The reason … is there really is no silver bullet cure for poverty, and poverty is really the issue that we're trying to address with families or individuals," Josephson said. "Getting kids involved in a health initiative early is important to us, but we're actually doing kind of a speed volunteering event for them."

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