A challenge from a Minnesota Vikings fan to support New Orleans Saints' punter Thomas Morstead's charity has beaten all expectations.
The online effort has been the feel-good story of the week, as more than 5,140 people with Minnesota addresses have given more than $200,000 to Morstead's What You Give Will Growfoundation.
Morstead announced he would give all the Minnesota money to Children's Minnesota. He also said he'd deliver the check in person if the grass roots effort reached $100,000, the initial goal. That mark was shattered in just 12 hours and the effort kept gaining momentum.
As of midday Friday, the total raised was more than $221,000 with two days remaining in the challenge.
"It was like a snowball and it kept rolling from there," Morstead said earlier this week as he tracked donations.
To show their gratitude, Children's Minnesota patients, families and staff created a video titled, "Hey Thomas Morstead our little Skoldiers have a message for you!"
"We want to thank you for your gracious donations to our Child Life Department; we'll put it to good use," a nurse wearing Vikings horns says to open the 1-minute, 13-second clip posted on the hospital's Facebook page. "When it comes to children, we are all on the same team," staff members say at the video's close.
Most donations were small: $10 here, $25 there. Some were larger. Love Your Melon, the local apparel brand dedicated to fighting childhood cancer, gave $10,000.
"You should be proud of yourself. That is a group effort and will affect everybody in your community in a positive way," Morstead said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "I am humbled by this. I may be forced to root for you all the way through the Super Bowl."
It all started Sunday after a fan posted on the social media site Reddit that fans should reward Morstead for his sportsmanship by donating to his foundation. Morstead had been injured but was the first Saints player to come back on the field for the point-after-touchdown after the Vikings' stunning 29-24 come-from-behind win.
Over the following days, fans rallied around the cause and their efforts gained national attention. Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres took notice. "This is amazing," the comedian and talk show host said in a tweet Thursday. "The world needs more of this."
Plans for the check handoff have not been announced. But there may be more on the punter's agenda.
"Might have to do one of these winter ice water plunges when I arrive," Morstead said in a Thursday night tweet.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768