RICHFIELD, Minn. — When you get to go holiday shopping with Harrison Smith, of course you pick out his jersey.
Javion Scott made sure of that.
"It was super cool. He's a really nice guy," Javion said of his shopping experience with the perennial Pro Bowl safety. "I like him … he's good at his defense and stuff, and sticking to his man."
Javion was one of 25 young patients from Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota who were provided a holiday surprise Friday night by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
The Mike Zimmer Foundation provided the children with dinner, $300 gift cards to Dick's Sporting Goods, and transportation to and from the store so the kids and their families could go on a holiday shopping spree.
"A lot of these kids are struggling with cancer or leukemia or things like that," Zimmer said. "So for them to come out here and hang out with some of our players and go shopping and have a nice, fun night, it's really heartwarming."
Javion was diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2018 but is now cancer-free. He still visits the hospital once a week for checkups, but said Friday that he was in good spirits — especially after the surprise shopping spree.
"I feel good," Javion said. "Just super happy."
A dozen Vikings players — Smith, Brian O'Neill, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Tyler Conklin, Laquon Treadwell, Brett Jones, Sean Mannion, Cam Smith, Brandon Dillon, John Keenoy, Ben Gedeon and Nate Meadors — showed up to support Zimmer's foundation and assisted the kids with shopping around the store.
The event marked the second time that Zimmer and his family have hosted kids for the shopping outing in the past three years.
Daughter Corri Zimmer-White, who runs the foundation, her sister, Marki, and brother, Adam, the Vikings linebackers coach, participated.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and The Mike Zimmer Foundation surprised local hospital patients with dinner and a holiday shopping spree with Vikings players.
Zimmer-White said her dad was noticeably in the holiday spirit this year, as he requested to add $100 to each gift card when he was on the way over to the store.
"It's one of our favorite events of the year," Zimmer-White said. "These kids are going through such a hard time, but to see them look at the players and the big smiles they get when shopping around with them – especially during the holiday season — it puts a little brightness in their difficult journey.
"It really shows how much he cares for these kids," Zimmer-White added. "But it means a lot that we all do it together … I think it means a lot to us that we do it as a family and in honor of my mom."
The Mike Zimmer Foundation was founded in 2016 in honor of Vikki Zimmer, who suddenly passed away in 2009 at the age of 50.
The children took a luxury bus to the store, where they were then treated to dinner by Chick-fil-A of Apple Valley.
But then the real surprise happened, as a dozen players showed up and Zimmer announced that each child would get a $300 gift card.
Players teamed up with kids to canvas the entire store, and many picked out Vikings gear. Other noticeable purchases included a boxing training bag, a new set of golf clubs and multiple boxes of shoes.
"It's a cool event that Coach Zimmer puts on," Mannion said. "It's fun to watch them go around and figure out what they want to get.
"I always enjoyed going and getting a new baseball mitt or something … so it's cool for them to know they have the run of the place," Mannion added. "Whatever catches their eye, they can have it if they want. They can kind of get lost in here."
Conklin could only chuckle when recalling his shopping experience.
"One of the kids I was with had Packers stuff on," Conklin said with a laugh. "I was trying to convince them to use the gift card to get new jerseys. I kind of failed on that one. But he was appreciative."
Besides Smith's jersey, Javion also ended up with a table-top hockey set and a Dalvin Cook jersey.
"He's my favorite player," Javion said. "I was super surprised. It was shocking that all these players showed up."
Zimmer makes frequent visits to the hospital each year. Barbie Hentges, the
Director of Development for Children's Minnesota Foundation, said the hospital is extremely appreciative of Zimmer's support.
"Events like these mean a lot to our families … some of these kids have been in an out [of the hospital] for a long time and have a long road ahead of them," Hentges said. "Just having the opportunity to do something as a kid … and for Coach Zimmer and the players to do something to think about them … it means the world.
"And for the parents, too, it can be stressful and a battle … this kind of takes the load off," Hentges added.
Zimmer brushed off the praise, but instead said he was just happy to bring some holiday joy to those in need.
"They just want to get out and have some fun," Zimmer said. "We're very fortunate with our foundation to try and give back to families in the Twin Cities."