For Chad Greenway, volunteering started early.
The Minnesota Vikings linebacker was named the team’s Community Man of the Year after receiving a nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. It is the second straight year that Greenway has been nominated for this award and the third time in his career.
The veteran linebacker has been an active member in the surrounding community since the Vikings drafted him in 2006. He has spent time volunteering with Memorial Blood Centers, Sanford Health, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Fuel Up To Play 60, The Salvation Army, Taste of the NFL, United Way and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota.
In 2009, he and his wife Jenni decided to establish the Lead The Way Foundation, which provides seriously ill and physically challenged children throughout the Twin Cities with daily support and life-changing experiences.
However, volunteering is not something that Greenway picked up once he entered into the NFL. It has been a part of his life ever since he was growing up on a farm in South Dakota. His parents always did their best to give back to their community and it is something that has stuck with him.
“My parents, with the resources they had on the farm, they were always very good at giving back in different ways, especially around the holiday time with food and donating meat to our church,” he said. “We’d go around and pass it out to families who were in need of a meal and I think it kind of starts there. And my wife is the same way. Her family in Illinois, they were always giving back in different ways of volunteering and I think once you kind of get involved it’s so much like something you need to do more of. It makes you feel so much better to go out and do something for someone else. I think it’s something that kind of takes shape as you mature.”
Greenway could remember his parents donating to the community from the time he was in middle school all the way through his days in high school. His family would go through the church to try and help families because it is usually difficult to find families in need. Either they are too proud to ask someone for help or they did not want to be a burden to those around them.
He even said that he has a memory of one man seeking out his family after his father died. They didn’t know who the man was, but he wanted to thank Greenway’s family for his father and let them know what the donations they made meant to him and how much they helped out his family.
Greenway is now in his 10th NFL season and will likely be parting ways from the NFL sooner rather than later, but his work with his foundation is not going to stop. He wants this organization to become bigger than football and help influence his daughters as they continue to grow up, much like his parents’ donations helped shape him into the man he is today.
“We want this to become our family legacy in some ways. Our daughters are now getting old enough at 8 and 5 to kind of start to understand what we’re doing, especially our 8-year-old to kind of understand what it’s like to go visit a children’s hospital and see these kids who maybe come in wheelchairs or come in with cancer and getting treatment and to see them and then see them hold up a Nintendo DS and get to go play a game. That seems like a small thing, but to put a smile on a kid’s face, I think that means a lot and it’s a lesson to my kids to know how precious your health is first of all and what you have.”
Being a professional athlete, Greenway has a lot more resources at his disposal than most people, but he still wants to encourage everyone to do as much as they can to help out those in need. Even the smallest amount can make someone’s day.
“We all have different types of resources that are at our disposal,” he said. “How little or menial they are, they can definitely benefit somebody. I just challenge everybody to do a little bit more.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer sure appreciates Greenway.
“That guy right there is a tremendous guy – great person, great individual, great teammate, good captain,” Zimmer said of Greenway. “I wish I would have had him 10 years ago, or however many years he's been in the league. He’s my kind of guy.”