Knights, Birk kick off Super Bowl week with coat donations

| February 1, 2018 | 2 Comments

Students of St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School in Minneapolis enthusiastically donned new coats as current and former members of the Minnesota Vikings greeted them Jan. 26.

Vikings backup quarterback Kyler Sloter and former lineman Matt Birk high-fived the children, posed with them for photos and signed autographs. Sloter and Birk partnered with the Knights of Columbus’ annual Coats for Kids drive, which takes place each Super Bowl week in the game’s host city.

“It’s another example of how I think the Knights step up and do good things,” said Birk, a member of the Knights of Columbus and 1994 graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. “With the Super Bowl here, it’s a good time to remind people of what’s important. It’s not the be-all and end-all.”

The Knights distributed the donated coats to the school’s 119 students in the gym during a morning program that included a bit of the pageantry that enveloped the city the week of the game. Multiple videographers and photographers surveyed the crowd, capturing an event the Knights’ Connecticut-based Supreme Council has organized annually since the 2009 Super Bowl.

“You can see they [the students] are excited. These kids usually don’t have these kinds of opportunities to meet these people,” said Edgar Alfonzo, the school’s principal, speaking of the encounter with NFL players.

Members of Minnesota Knights of Columbus councils helped to distribute the coats, which were donated by the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council invited Birk and the Vikings to participate.

Birk spoke to the student body about teamwork and faith. He also reminded the students of their God-given dignity.

“Football players are just like you. You have good days and bad days. Football players are children of God as well,” said Birk, who was playing for the Baltimore Ravens when the team won the 2012 Super Bowl.

Matt Birk, left, former Minnesota Vikings player and alumnus of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, shakes hands with second-grader David Arcentales of St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School in Minneapolis during the Coats for Kids program Jan. 29. All 119 students at the school were given winter coats by the Knights of Columbus, who do the event every year during Super Bowl week in the host city. At right is Knights member Patrick Farrelly of St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove. He is the state chairman of Coats for Kids. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Sloter, who grew up Methodist, said he appreciated the purpose of the Coats for Kids event. He participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while attending the University of Northern Colorado before he joined the Vikings. He wants to make giving back a significant part of his professional sports career, too.

“The Vikings just really present opportunities for the players to come out and give back to the community,” Sloter said. “Now, that we’re in the off-season, I feel like I have a bigger responsibility to go out and do some things, try to help out, give back and make people’s day as much as I can.”

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens spoke to the students during the event, reminding them that even those coats are a sign of God’s love for them. Father Mike Van Sloun, pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata and Catholic chaplain for the Vikings, also addressed the students, explaining that football players have the same call to holiness that everyone does. Archbishop Bernard Hebda also attended the event.

Mark McMullen, who represented the Supreme Council at the event, said the event has led to the donation of more than 500,000 new coats since its inception. Knights councils around the U.S. participate in Coats for Kids throughout the year.

“This is the most visible program we do,” McMullen said. “This winter season, 100,000 coats have been ordered throughout the United States and Canada.”

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Category: Local News