A season ago, Vikings players traveled across the Twin Cities to bring the holiday spirit to kids in hospital beds. This year, they continued in that tradition while also expanding their seasonal focus to the Boys & Girls in Minnesota.

Rudolph Lives Up to His Name with Super Bowl Tickets

Kyle Rudolph opened the “Kyle Rudolph End Zone” last year as a kid-focused space at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. It features a kitchen, video games, sports equipment and relaxation areas. The End Zone has since become a favorite spot for 3-year-old Cooper Baltzell.

But Rudolph did more this season then open up doors for Cooper and his parents. A few days before Christmas, he surprised the Baltzell family with tickets to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta.

Rudolph, the Vikings’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee, said that he has been drawn to Cooper’s indomitable spirit since he met him and his family. Cooper has been living with Hirschsprung’s disease since he was born, and as a result, the Baltzell family has never taken any significant trips with Cooper.

“Just getting to know them at the hospital and knowing everything that they’ve gone through – they really haven’t had an opportunity to take a family trip because of Cooper’s illness, and he is just such a high-spirited little guy that’s always smiling,” Rudolph said. “We just felt like their family deserved something cool like that, and it’s something that they haven’t been able to do.”


Rhodes, Cook, Ham Provide for Minnesota Boys & Girls Clubs

Twin Cities Boys & Girls Clubs were the recipients of much of Vikings players’ kindness this holiday season. Whether it be the giving of their time or their money, the Vikings have clearly made the next generation their main focus.

For the previous four years, Xavier Rhodes took various kids at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital on a shopping spree. This year, he continued in his role of Santa Claus. But this go-around, he bought a myriad of gifts for all eight locations of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Minnesota. Rhodes purchased Xbox’s, video games and speakers and personally delivered the gifts to the West Side club location.

But he was not alone in his work. Dalvin Cook met a group of kids from the Mt. Airy Boys & Girls Club at the Hy-Vee in Eagan as a surprise guest speaker at their scheduled cooking class. The kids thought they were going to the grocery store to learn to cook. Instead, they got the most popular Cook in town.

“It actually turned out better than what we thought it would,” Cook said. “The kids were excited, and I was excited to get going with them.

Cook led the class in making a healthy, balanced meal. It consisted of calzones stuffed with chicken, broccoli and cheese, pita pockets with guacamole and red peppers and a fruit smoothie.

“They love cooking, so this was also a plus for them,” Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club’s Anee Thor said. “They like being in the kitchen … we do a lot of imaginary playing in the kitchen, so for them to actually cook something is huge.”

Fullback C.J. Ham also got in on the action, providing a family of six with a day to remember.

Ham spent much of his childhood with the Boys & Girls Club in Duluth, so when the time came to give back, Ham was more than willing to give his time and money for the cause. He and his wife invited a mother and her five kids, all members of the Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club, to the Vikings’ facility. There they received a buffet dinner, a quintet of Vikings teddy bears and a wall of wrapped and personalized Christmas presents. Following dinner, Ham gave the family a tour of the facility, including the Vikings locker room.

Ham met the family at a Vikings practice earlier this year. He described the experience of helping them as “a special thing.”

“It’s something that’s always been on my heart, to help others in some type of way,” Ham said. “Being able to have the platform that I have now, it really makes that possible. I’m just happy I was able to bless a family with some of the things that I wasn’t able to get as a kid, and I know a lot of my friends weren’t able to get. To be that for somebody else means a lot to me, and I hope to do more.”

Check out other stories of the NFL’s work in the community by using the hashtag #MoreThanFootballFPC.

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.

 Follow @fpc_vikingsFollow @fpc_nfl

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