For some pro athletes, finding the same gratification off the field as on it proves a challenge. But for Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, his charity work for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is as enriching as anything on the gridiron.
Ever since his younger brother underwent successful chemotherapy treatment for neuroblastoma, Rudolph has been determined to do whatever he can to brighten the days of ailing kids — and make life easier for their families.
He was a natural fit for the team’s 30-year partnership with the Children’s Hospital, and eventually began leading the Vikings’ annual Holiday Huddle with his wife, Jordan. The event features current and former Vikings, who provide dinner, gifts, autographs, photos — whatever they can do to bring some cheer to kids who need an emotional lift while spending the holidays in the hospital.
“I get way more out of it than the kids we visit,” Rudolph says. “They are such great inspiration, and always seem to put reality in perspective.... You can impact people’s lives with the simplest of gestures, and a five-minute room visit can make a kid’s entire stay in the hospital.”
Rudolph also organized a Trip to the North Pole event this Christmas for more than two dozen patients and their families, sending them by private jet for a visit to Santa’s toy shop, complete with elves and reindeer. “It was a huge success, and one of my most favorite events that I’ve ever been to or hosted.”
He’s also looking forward to the opening of Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone. It will be an entertainment and play area at the Children’s Hospital, designed to provide a space where kids can momentarily forget about their illnesses.
“We wanted to create a space where they can just be kids,” Rudolph says. “I’ve personally made sure that this will be one of the best spaces any children’s hospital in the country has to offer. And I want it to stay that way for years to come.
“I have really embraced the Twin Cities community as home, and it has embraced my wife Jordan and now our twin daughters,” says Rudolph. “We want to do all we can to impact the community as much as possible in a positive way.”