Minnesota Vikings players do a lot of charity work during their season. But this week, much of their work had a holiday theme.
One of the highlights of the day was Vikings running back Adrian Peterson dressing up as Santa Claus to surprise more than 400 children with Christmas gifts at Mary's Place Transitional Shelter in Minneapolis.
Peterson, his wife Ashley and their children showed up at the housing center near Target Field with gift bags organized by gender and age group.
ESPN's Ben Goessling notes that many of the families were immigrants from Somalia and didn't even know it was Peterson behind the beard.
"I love to see smiles on kids' faces, especially when you have kids that are less fortunate," Peterson told reporters. "When Christmastime comes around, they don't know what to expect. They don't think they're getting anything. So to surprise kids, and see the smiles on their faces, and to be able to bless people, that's what it's all about."
And it doesn't sound like Peterson plans to quit playing Santa anytime soon. Ashley Peterson bought the suit instead of renting it, so they can do it again.
"This is definitely something we want to do yearly with the foundation," Ashley Peterson said. "Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I want to make sure that, as many kids as we can help to have the best Christmas ever, I want to help those children."
Vikings bring holiday cheer to hospitalized children
Several Vikings also went to the University of Minnesota's Masonic Children's hospital, where they participated in a holiday party for hospitalized children – sponsored by Vikings center John Sullivan and his wife Ariel.
Kyle Rudolph, Danielle Hunter, Carter Bykowski, Adam Thielen, Nick Easton, Isame Faciane and Kevin McDermott were among the current Vikings at the hospital, while several former Vikings joined the party as well.
The group met with patients, their families and others while passing out jerseys and gear while the patients and their families mingled with players in the lobby.
"People here at the hospital do a great job of getting [those who are able] out and home for the holidays, so the people that are here over the holidays are in a serious enough condition that they can't leave the hospital, said Rudolph. "For us to come here and spread some holiday cheer, be with the kids and families and take their minds off what's going on for a little while, we really just want to spread the spirit of Christmas and the holidays."