Vikings Children's Fund celebrates 30 years

The Vikings Children's Fund celebrated 30 years of partnering with the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital on Thursday night.

The Vikings and the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital celebrated 30 years of partnering together, with the Vikings Children's Fund raising more than $8 million during its 30 years of existence.

University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks hosted the event at the university's Eastcliff Residence near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, and the Vikings were well-represented with president Mark Wilf, head coach Brad Childress, vice presidents Rick Spielman, Steve LaCroix, Rob Brzezinski, Steve Poppen, Lester Bagley, linebacker Ben Leber and his wife Abby, and members of the public relations staff.

"The Minnesota Vikings represent one of the great assets of Minnesota," Bruininks said.

Leber leads the players' visits to the hospital, and the Vikings had all 53 of their players participate in at least one Community Tuesday or other community outreach event during 2008, whether that was to promote education, help the hungry or visit children in hospitals.

"Like I say all the time, our players probably get more out of it than the kids," Childress said.

Dr. Aaron Friedman, head of the university's department of pediatrics, said that from 2005 to 2008, the Vikings' contributions to the university helped fund 36 positions for research and applauded a new effort last year that helped 1,800 children who normally wouldn't be vaccinated receive an influenza shot.

Bruininks called the partnership "truly unique," saying that it's hard for any partnership to keep its focus for 30 years.

Bruininks also said it's the 40th anniversary of the first bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota. At the time, the survival rate for childhood leukemia was about 20 percent. Now it's about 85 percent.

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