EAGAN, Minn. — The National Football League’s annual Crucial Catch campaign aims to bring awareness to early detection and risk reduction efforts for multiple cancers during the month of October.
Ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Lenny Wilf purchased “Crucial Catch” Nikes for every team staff member, including all front office staff, scouts and coaches.
Each employee was able to choose a shoe color based on one of 11 different cancers the campaign recognizes: navy (colon cancer); pink (breast); teal (cervical); blue (prostate); gold (pediatric); emerald green (liver); white (lung); gray (brain); orange (kidney); purple (pancreatic); and black (melanoma).
The idea was brought to ownership from the Vikings’ social impact department, which aims to promote community engagement through the organization’s philanthropic efforts.
“Every family, including ours, has been touched in some way, directly or indirectly by cancer,” Mark Wilf told ESPN. “It’s the kind of thing where just about everybody has been impacted by it and we just think it’s a great way to connect with the community.”
The entire Wilf family will be wearing purple Nike’s, which represents the fight against pancreatic cancer, but their connection to a Vikings player’s fight against a different form of cancer recently hit close to home.
Ten months ago, Chris Doleman thought his life was over. The eight-time Pro Bowler and former Vikings defensive end was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that forms tumors on the brain’s supportive tissue.
Once word got out about Doleman’s surgery on Jan. 25, the floodgates opened on social media with words of encouragement from fans across the league. Doleman noted the “amazing” support he received from the Wilf family, who reached out immediately after he was diagnosed.
The Vikings have asked Doleman to sound the Gjallarhorn prior to kickoff on Sunday, uniting his fight with cancer to an afternoon of awareness.
“I have to say it was very hard to talk to him and hear him go through the challenge and tough battle he was going through,” Wilf said. “Getting to know him over the past few years and knowing the blow he received here, but we also know the type of fighter he is, we wanted him to know right off the bat that we’re there to support him and we’re pulling for his fight.”
On Sunday, the Vikings and the NFL will present a check in the amount of $175,000 to the American Cancer Society. The vital funding will help enable hundreds of people in the Twin Cities to obtain access to early detection and screening. Locally, $100,000 will go to Neighborhood Health Source and $75,000 will be donated to United Family Medicine.
The Wilf family’s aim is to connect their entire organization through a disease that affects millions every year. The culmination is a day of awareness surrounding the Vikings’ third home game that started with a gift to each employee to unite an entire organization in the fight against cancer.
“We just want our staff to honor their loved ones, those who have passed and encourage people who are fighting it,” Wilf said. “Different cancers affect people in different ways so this is a way for people to feel even more connected through the campaign in a personal way. Each person can feel they’re bringing the awareness to the public on their own.”