Vikings fans, still jubilant after the team’s stunning win over New Orleans Sunday, are showing that they are a benevolent bunch, too.
Their compassion was aroused when injured punter Thomas Morstead was the first Saints player to come back on the field for the mandatory point-after-touchdown kick following Stefon Diggs’ last-second, game-winning race to the end zone.
A Vikings fan noticed Morstead’s act of sportsmanship and suggested on the social website Reddit that the purple faithful respond by donating to the punter’s charity, What You Give Will Grow, an organization that focuses on pediatric cancer.
Donate they did.
By Wednesday evening, more than 2,500 people had given more than $108,000. One donor gave $10,000, but most gave smaller amounts, including $6, the punter’s uniform number, said Lindsey Mitchell, corporate communications manager for the New Orleans Saints.
Morstead said he’d give the money to Children’s Minnesota — and that he’d fly to Minneapolis to deliver the check personally if donations reached $100,000 by the end of the week.
He was true to his word, saying he planned to book his flight Wednesday night. “I am totally blown away. I will be there the week of the Super Bowl,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account. “I’m just totally humbled by this. I might be forced to root for you guys all the way through the Super Bowl now.”
Morstead said he will release details later about when the check will be presented.
The Saints’ 29-24 loss to the Vikings on the last play of the playoff game was the most “devastating way to lose a football game and end a season,” Morstead said earlier, noting that he was on the other end in 2009 when the Saints beat the Vikings and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Just as painful for Morstead was the torn rib cage cartilage he suffered while trying to tackle Vikings return man Marcus Sherels.
“It’s going to be a long process to heal, four to six weeks,” he said.
Despite his injury, Morstead trotted back onto the field to line up for the meaningless play, even though he’s not part of the Saints’ extra point team.
On Monday evening, Morstead learned that donations were rolling in, and assumed they were coming from Saints fans. Then the foundation’s executive director told him they were coming from Minnesota.
As a way to pay the generosity forward, Morstead said he would kick the donations back to the Child Life programs at Children’s Minnesota. Those programs help children and their families understand their treatment and reduce stress through play, relaxation and special events and activities. Morstead’s foundation supports similar efforts in New Orleans.
“They are in the giving spirit and with their good deed the money should stay in their community,” Morstead said. “I hope it will help a lot.”
Children’s Minnesota was touched by Morstead’s gesture when informed of the coming windfall, said Joy Johnson-Lind, senior director of child and family services. She said the Child Life unit will use the money to “lighten the moods” of children who come to the unit for everything from blood draws to cancer treatments.
“I am proud of our Vikings fans,” she said. “Things can start small and look how it has grown. There’s a lot of positive energy and people want to get on board. It’s amazing what the community has done.”
In a video message posted on What You Give Will Grow’s YouTube channel, the punter said he was blown away by the flood of support, and to that, “I give you a Who Dat.”
Fans celebrated Morstead’s charity work.
“Much respect for your sportsmanship and determination to finish the game,” wrote one commenter on the charity’s YouTube page. “Add one more MN Vikings fan to your list of donors.”
Said another: “You are an inspiration to all people. The way you came out to line up for a meaningless PAT was a lesson in sportsmanship. I’ve donated and shared your story and I hope my kids learned something from you.”
Morstead’s foundation has given away more than $2.5 million since its inception in 2014, according to its website.