MINNEAPOLIS -- On any given night, there are 48 families with children staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the University of Minnesota's East Bank campus, waiting for or recovering from surgery, or dealing with an ongoing medical condition. Those families see their children stay for an average of 150 nights, looking for ways to get through the day and just be a kid. Some kids are able to play on the playground on the west side of the facility, but because of physical handicaps, many kids at the Ronald McDonald House were left watching.
When CEO Jill Evenocheck was looking to build a handicapped-accessible playground on an open plot of land at the Ronald McDonald House, she got a call from Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway’s foundation. On Tuesday, as a young boy held up the worm he'd just found in the dirt cleared by a ceremonial golden shovel, the vision was brought to life.
Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation broke ground on the Ronald McDonald House playground on Tuesday morning, spurring construction on a $75,000 facility that will give physically-handicapped children a place to play alongside other kids at the home. Greenway, who held his annual Celebrity Waiter Night at Manny's Steakhouse on Monday, will use the funds supplied by that event and his annual golf tournament, among other donations, to fund construction.
"It's something tangible you know is going to get used every day, not just by a kid who is in the hospital, but siblings, family -- give them a place to come outside and enjoy the weather," Greenway said. "They spend a lot of hours and time in a hospital room, and it's not a fun experience. To have a place to come outside and go play and enjoy the sun, it does make things a lot better, a little more normal. It's nice to be able to provide it."
Greenway was named the Vikings Community Man of the Year in 2014 and 2015, and was the team's 2015 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He won the NFL Players Association's Byron "Whizzer" White Award in March 2015 for his leadership and service. The 33-year-old linebacker, who has said he plans to retire after his 11th season with the Vikings, is expecting his fourth daughter with his wife Jennifer.
"It's easier for us to understand the service it will provide for these families -- having kids of our own and knowing it will be a welcome distraction the kids can spend hours on," Greenway said. "It's a family dynamic that's coming to these homes."