Henderson's Bass Challenge This Week

Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson is hosting a celebrity bass challenge this week to benefit his foundation, which in turn benefits youth in the Twin Cities area.

Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is venturing into tournament fishing, if only for a day.

Henderson is hosting the E.J. Henderson Celebrity Bass Challenge Thursday on Lake Waconia to help benefit the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation. The event will take off from Lola's Lakehouse, starting at 9 a.m. and running until 6 p.m. The launch takes place at 9 a.m., with live music for those not participating starting at noon, followed by a 3:30 p.m. weigh-in with prize presentations to follow. A silent auction for numerous items will go from noon to 5 p.m.

The event is described as "a fun and competitive fishing tournament that will raise money to support" his foundation. Henderson's foundation, which will be detailed in a fall issue of Viking Update Magazine, was established "to support schools lacking efficient and effective academic and physical programs. Without the funding for these programs, many urban students are at greater risk of falling behind," according to the foundation's mission.

Up to 50 boats will participate in the six-hour tournament, with each boat to consist of one pro angler, one celebrity angler and a participating sponsor. Prizes will be given to the top eight teams.

Henderson's foundation was established to give urban youth a chance to develop their social and academic skills. Thanks to a $50,000 donation from Vikings safety Darren Sharper, the foundation, housed in conjunction with Henderson's Game Speed Football Academy training facilities, will have dozens of new computers and flat-screen televisions for the kids to use while they learn.

Henderson has separate rooms being set up, one for academic learning and one for learning life skills. Kids will be required to pass a lesson each day in order to use the athletic training facilities. The facility works with the Urban Youth Outreach Program, which unites youth from various social and economic backgrounds and works with them to reach common goals, including social skills, career preparation and physical fitness.

The foundation helps pay Game Speed for the trainers that inner-city kids wouldn't normally be able to afford. Those kids go through the same workout with the same trainers used for the paying customers from more affluent areas such as Edina or Eden Prairie.

"What we're trying to do is create a holistic approach with these athletes," said co-founder Mark Ellis, a former athletic trainer with the Vikings. "A lot of these athletes and kids, they don't really lack the physical ability, so Game Speed is really the last thing they need. We really need to address the mind and the soul, so that's where his foundation comes into play. They work together."

Officials from the Police Athletic League in North Minneapolis and the St. Paul Gang Task Force have been bringing kids to Game Speed to introduce them to the program, with Henderson footing much of the training bill to this point.

"In two, three or four years, I hope it's just running smoothly, paying for itself," Henderson said of his vision for his foundation and Game Speed. "There are a lot of kids going through here, start to have classes of the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation Class of '08. … In three or four years, maybe we can have kids that came through and they come back and can start volunteering and mentoring the kids in here. Hopefully we can continue to train kids and become a well-known training facility."

For more information on Henderson's bass tournament on Thursday, visit www.ejhcelebritybasschallenge.com.

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