The Patriots trip to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII ended in heartbreak, but before the big game, family and friends of the Patriots left an impact on the community that welcomed them for the week.
More than 40 family members and friends spent the morning of Feb. 2 volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank that distributes supplies to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and more. Second Harvest covers 59 counties in Minnesota, and the extended members of the Patriots helped them prepare items to send out to their partners.
The families were tasked with scooping rice into individual bags, weighing and sealing them for distribution. Despite arriving late because of a broken-down bus, the families still managed to pack 569 pounds of rice.
Chief executive officer Rob Zeaske said the group came in eager and ready to work.
"Delays aside, I think it speaks volumes to have a group that's here, ready to roll up their sleeves and engage in good spirits," Rob said. "I think we in Minnesota and in the Twin Cities have a lot of pride about our civic engagement, our volunteerism. We have a lot of strong giving tradition here, so to get a call [from the Patriots] feels like we've got friends coming to town. It was really meaningful that a team coming for an event like the Super Bowl would spend time and take time to think about the neighbors in the community as well. I think that's a really powerful commitment to community."
In addition to volunteering time, the Patriots Foundation donated $5,000 to Second Harvest. Family members of players like James White, Brandin Cooks, Nate Solder and Rex Burkhead all donned hair nets and gloves and were ready to give back.
They said it was a great way to feel connected to the communities they visit during the Super Bowl and to the Patriots organization.
"This is my fourth Super Bowl, so I've been doing this every time in different cities," Peri Solder, Nate's mom, said. "It's just been fabulous. What a great way to get to know other parents. It's really just been great."
Ryan Burkhead, Rex's brother, said his family has given back, and it means a lot for his brother to be a part of a team that helps foster that.
"They're developing players in so many ways and as human beings off the field. I think that's awesome," Ryan said. "I think it's great getting families involved. It kind of makes us feel like a part of the team here for the weekend."
Check out more photos from the visit in the gallery below.
More than 40 friends and family members of Patriots players, coaches and football staff volunteered at Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank in Golden Valley, Minnesota. They teamed with Patriots cheerleaders and staff from UnitedHealthcare to repackage bulk foods for families in need. The New England Patriots Foundation also presented Second Harvest Heartland with a $5,000 donation.