MINNEAPOLIS – After much anticipation and planning, Kyle Rudolph’s vision for a therapeutic play center at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is coming to life.
Rudolph, his wife Jordan, and the couple’s twin daughters, Andersyn and Finley, were at the hospital Tuesday for an unveiling of the completed plan and renderings for “Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone,” a new child- and teen-friendly space.
“Today’s the day when our visions and our dreams are starting to become a reality for this space,” Rudolph said. “This is the first time we’ve really been able to sit down with all of our partners and everyone that’s had a hand in making this happen.
“Today was actually the first day that we saw the final decision,” Rudolph added. “It was exciting to see the final space and what it’s going to look like, and we’re just excited to get the ball rolling and be able to get this space opened up so the kids can come down here and play in it. The sooner the kids get in it, the better.”
Rudolph explained his background, sharing that his younger brother was diagnosed and treated for cancer during his first year of life. Although Rudolph was too young to remember that period of time and his brother has long-since been cancer-free, the stories he’s heard and the current relationships he has with the patients and their families inspired him to create a larger and more interactive space for youth at the children’s hospital.
The End Zone will be broken into three main areas: (1) Activity, (2) Community and (3) Quiet & Lounge. The respective spaces will offer a number of unique features including the following:
• small kitchen area
• indoor basketball hoop
• digital sports simulator
• sensory walk/area for patients with autism spectrum disorder or other behavior health conditions
• CenturyLink Zone equipped with a television and video game consoles.
Rudolph presented his vision, personal experience and gratitude to a number of guests in the Wilf Family Center, including several sponsors and donors that helped to make the project a reality.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for us to be a part of Kyle’s vision,” CenturyLink Region President Duane Ring said. “It aligns with our company’s vision as well, to help improve lives. What a better way to do that than when you can impact the lives of kids who are going through the medical treatment they provide here.”
Dr. Abe Jacob, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s hospital, and Casey O’Brien, a former quarterback at Cretin-Derham Hall High School who spent more than 160 nights in the hospital during two bouts with bone cancer, also spoke at the event.
Rudolph formed a connection with O’Brien, who received medical clearance to return to his team and hold extra points for some games during the 2016 season. The two spent some time during the summer talking about the hospital’s current teen space and ways the End Zone will improve the experience for patients and their family members.
“We may have all these great ideas about what we want to put in a space and that we think are cool, but if the kids don’t want it and the kids don’t use it, it’s not cool,” Rudolph said. “The worst thing we can do is put a space down here that looks incredible from the street, but there’s never any kids in it. That’s the whole point of building the space: kids can come down here and they don’t want to go back to their rooms. They’re kind of forced to go back to their rooms. We hope it gets a lot of use.”
Jacob called the Rudolphs “tremendous role models and examples” for everyone they’ve worked with.
“[They show] how we can not only work in the communities but also serve our communities and make them better places,” Jacob said. “For us at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, their significant ability and capacity to impact patients and families in real ways absolutely makes the community we live in a great place to be.”
“We know you’re a tough guy on the field,” Jacob told Rudolph, “but we know you [and Jordan] have some of the biggest hearts in Minnesota.”