Chad’s Locker: Minnesota Vikings’ Greenway Making Impact at Children’s Hospitals

Jaimie Senger has been a patient at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota for a little over three years… but she’s been a Minnesota Vikings fan her whole life.

“We’re huge Vikings fans,” Senger tells me. “My dad is a big-time fan. He and my uncles and a couple of their buddies bought one of the bricks and put their names on it for the new stadium […] We watch all the Vikings games together.”

One of Senger’s favorite players to watch is linebacker Chad Greenway—but she loves him for a lot more than his on-field performance. Senger is just one patient that benefits on a daily basis from Greenway’s Lead the Way Foundation and more specifically, the Chad’s Locker program.

The idea for the lockers generated after a few visits Greenway made to hospitals earlier in his career. The linebacker said he often saw kids confined to hospital rooms without much to do, and he felt it was a gap that his foundation could fill.

“I saw this first-hand when my own dad got sick,” Greenway said. “I have three daughters and also a few nieces and nephews. We wanted to be there with and for my dad, but spending hours in the hospital with kids—it can be really stressful. These lockers and the items in them really offer relief to these families for just a brief moment in a very difficult situation.”

Each locker is stocked with an inventory of electronics available for check-out by patients or family members; the contents include everything from iPads and laptops to video games and video game systems. Prior to the lockers being installed, individuals were welcome to bring their own electronics, but the hospitals did not have the means to lend out items.

Agent Elliot Nelson and Development Officer Barbie Hentges work closely with the Chad's Locker program at Children's.

Agent Elliot Nelson and Development Officer Barbie Hentges work closely with the Chad’s Locker program at Children’s.

In March 2012, Chad’s first locker was installed at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. In October, Greenway launched his second locker at Children’s Minneapolis Hospital located in the Geek Squad Precinct.

At Children’s, Geek Squad employees (known as “agents”) manage the locker’s inventory and interact with hospital visitors daily to ensure any and all technology needs are met. The agents track use of the devices as well as requests or needs for new materials. Technology is constantly evolving, and Greenway’s foundation makes it a priority to keep the lockers stocked with current equipment.

Agent Elliot Nelson began working at Children’s one year before Greenway installed the locker, and he says it’s made an astronomical impact.

“It’s really fun to be able to hand kids an iPad,” Nelson comments. “It makes parents’ jobs a lot easier, too—not only do we have a distraction device, but we have an entertainment and communication device.”

Because Greenway’s foundation supplies such up-to-date electronics, Geek Squad agents are able to easily make the iPads and laptops compatible for a variety of things—including Netflix, CaringBride and Skype. They also have the capability of connecting to a patient’s own DVR at home so he or she can watch specific television programs.

As a regular visitor to the locker herself, Senger affirms the significance the program has made on the hospital and its guests. To Senger and other patients, an iPad is much more than something to play games on. Senger explains the following:

[pull_quote_center]Chad’s locker helps all the kids that are here. It helps them feel better. It basically helps distract them [during] their treatment or the experience of having to be in the hospital; it makes it better. It definitely has made my stay here better.[/pull_quote_center]

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Children’s Development Officer Barbie Hentges works directly with Lead the Way Foundation representatives and can’t speak any more highly of the program, which is due to make another shipment to the locker soon. Hentges says the Foundation is always very approachable and easy to work with, and she is beyond thankful to Greenway and other players who donate time and resources to the hospital.

“We have players who come in and visit, and they’re not looking to have a reporter follow them around,” Hentges says. “They’re here really to make a patient’s day. They do silly stuff, they’re here to talk to kids and give them some normalcy. We’re fortunate to have partners like Chad– they’re just passionate people, and it shows.”

Hentges connects with the Geek Squad agents to learn specific needs or requests of the patients and then communicates that to the Foundation, which in turn works to provide materials as able. Agent Nelson tells me that some of the more popular devices—iPads especially—are used so often that they are checked out more times than there are days in the year.

“Sometimes we can turn a device around three times in a day,” Nelson says, “which is pretty exciting to see. It goes to prove how impactful this program is.”

The locker program helps the hospital in more ways than one; because of Greenway’s generosity to the hospital, Nelson and other staff members are able to reach out to other donors and, in a sense, challenge them to match donations to those of Lead the Way.

“[Chad] raised the bar really fast,” Nelson adds.

Greenway has always found it important to find ways of giving back to the community, but the topic became even more of a priority when he became a father. To Greenway, implementing these lockers is a very tangible way of supporting families facing difficult situations and letting kids know they are being cared for. He said the following:

[pull_quote_center]Being a parent changes things in so many ways, but seeing the world through the eyes of my girls just puts things into a completely different perspective […]. It is so important for me to teach them the importance of giving back and helping them understand that at any point in time, this could happen to us. We need to embrace every moment and be thankful for the opportunities that we, as a family, are so fortunate to have. Tomorrow, that could change in an instant.[/pull_quote_center]

Similar to his on-field reputation, Greenway will keep fighting and working hard and get things done—especially when it comes to the locker program. He hopes to continue offering the latest materials so that patients and families have complete access.

(photo by Lindsey Young)

(photo by Lindsey Young)

“I am overwhelmed when I think about the support I have received over the last 10 years, and we just want to continue making a difference,” Greenway said. “The need will always be there, so as long as we can fill that gap, we will do it.”

For the linebacker, it’s more than worth it to see patients like Senger enjoying the results.

In talking with Senger, who turned 18 this week, you would hardly guess from her positivity that she is undergoing treatments at a hospital. She gives fist bumps to the Geek Squad agents, laughing loudly as she tells me about making her dad watch The Bachelorette with her on a recent visit. Interacting with the teenager’s bubbly personality, I somehow feel as if I’ve known her much longer than 10 minutes.

Senger has encountered plenty of obstacles, as have many patients at Children’s, but her main focus is thanking those who have done so much to make an impact on her and her family. In this case, she’s incredibly grateful for Greenway and the Chad’s Locker program.

“He doesn’t have to do that; he doesn’t have to donate his time, or his money, or anything. It really is such a great thing,” she says, smiling. “I want to thank him for everything he’s done for Children’s.”

Jaimie Senger, a patient at Children's Hospital Minneapolis, benefits daily from Chad's locker.  (photo by Lindsey Young)

Jaimie Senger, a patient at Children’s Hospital Minneapolis, benefits daily from Chad’s locker. (photo by Lindsey Young)

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A word from Chad:
“Short term, this challenge could help us fund all of our lockers in the Twin Cities for one year. That is HUGE! Really, truly think about that. Every dollar will make a difference because it is going to help us manage the program and update each of these lockers so that they each get new movies/games/etc. I think about how excited my girls get when a new movie comes out, our goal is to offer the latest and greatest so that those kids have access to that stuff as well. Long term, I would love to continue the momentum.” – Chad Greenway, MN Vikings

Team up with Chad!
As many of you know, Vikings Territory has collaborated with a number of other Vikings sites to raise money for this worthwhile cause. We’re having a friendly competition between sites with the unified goal of raising $10,000 for the Chad’s Locker program. Please consider partnering with us to reach our goal and positive impact these children and their families. To donate to the #MoreThanWords campaign on behalf of your favorite Vikings site, please click here.