Kyle Rudolph is no stranger to hospitals. The Minnesota Vikings tight end is a frequent visitor at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, greeting patients at their bedsides, signing autographs for families, sponsoring movie nights in the Wilf Family Auditorium, and even hosting fundraisers.
But long before he was a professional football player, Rudolph and his family became very familiar with their local hospital when his younger brother endured surgery and chemotherapy as an infant for neuroblastoma, a type of cancer.
When Rudolph and his wife, Jordan, visited Masonic Children’s Hospital for the first time, they felt an instant connection.
“We fell in love with what they do and what they offer to families and kids who go into these situations that are really tough,” Kyle Rudolph said. “After being here in the community for five years—this is our home now—we wanted to do something special.”
With a gift of $250,000 from the Rudolphs, along with support from Aerotek, CenturyLink, Cub, Love Your Melon, Northwestern Mutual-Minneapolis and Abir and Crystal Cullerton-Sen, the hospital will build Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone. The End Zone is a 2,500-square-foot space designed to give children and teenagers a place to laugh, relax, engage in healing therapies, and just hang out with other kids who know what it’s like to spend time in the hospital.
“We have a lot of patients and families who stay at the hospital for extended periods of time. The space is really meant to give school-age kids and teenagers an escape from the hospital setting,” said Aimee Nelson, a Child-Family Life Specialist at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Nelson, who has been involved in the End Zone design, says the End Zone will be available for inpatient and outpatient visitors.
The End Zone features will include:
Kyle Rudolph's End Zone will be staffed by Child-Family Life Services specialists, trained in helping patients and families navigate the emotional, mental and physical demands during their stay at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Masonic Children’s Hospital staff will also use the End Zone for events, classes and activities. For example, the Cub Kitchen may eventually host nutrition classes and art/crafts activities, Nelson said.
Nelson and other Child-Family Life specialists long ago identified the need for a “hang-out space” in the hospital, but Rudolph’s commitment and support from other donors helped get the idea off the ground, Nelson said. The End Zone is slated to open in Fall 2017.
“We definitely couldn’t have done this without him,” Nelson said.
In addition to their donation to the End Zone project, the Rudolphs have supported other programs and events for Masonic Children's Hospital patients and families, and frequently visit the hospital in person. Kyle's deep involvement at the hospital has changed his perspective, he said.“You go in and see these kids who have every reason to be down, and they never are. They are so excited and so energetic,” Rudolph said. “It kind of changes our outlook on life.”