The threat of rain in the area on Saturday didn’t slow down the Rochester Bolder Options fundraiser, it only forced a change in location.
The annual Sportacular Tailgate Challenge is usually held at Mayo Field, but the staff for the event had to go to its backup plan and switch the venue indoors to the Graham Arena Complex.
“We wanted it outside, but it turned out great,” said Scott Robinson, the program director for Rochester Boulder Options.
Robinson estimated that attendance for the event was about 450. Bolder Options president Darrell Thompson, a John Marshall grad who played football at Minnesota and then in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, was hoping to raise $40,000 for the event. Robinson said the total topped $50,000 in the Rochester Bold Options biggest fundraiser of the year.
“We had to move it inside because of the rain, but it’s been great to have it here,” Thompson said. “The attendance might be down a little bit, but the people and the high school kids, it’s been great to have them all out here. We’ve had some friendly competition and are earning some money to help kids in Rochester. I was proud and honored to be part of it.”
Earn of Corn
There were 8-10 game stations that were run by Century, John Marshall, Mayo and Lourdes high schools. Each of the high schools was competing for the annual Ear of Corn Trophy. John Marshall won the trophy to snap Mayo’s three-year win streak. JM athletes, aided by former Minnesota Vikings lineman Bryant McKinnie, also won the tug-of-war contest.
“I came up here to do this because it reminds me of a Big Brother, Big Sister program,” McKinnie said. “It keeps kids active. … I wanted to come back to Minnesota to be a part of it and give back time.”
McKinnie hails from Miami and runs a foundation in his hometown. That is a common theme for the pro athletes who were on hand Saturday. Along with McKinnie, the list included former Vikings Randall McDaniel, Robert Griffith, Robert Tate and Leo Lewis. Griffith has been to the event in Rochester more than five times.
“Darrell Thompson’s just a good friend of mine,” Griffith said. “We competed against each other in the league and we have mutual business friends. I’m here to really respond to his cultural and grassroots to this city.”
Griffith has a foundation in San Diego. He grew up there and gives out scholarships and likes to give back to the city.
“Most definitely,” he said. “But this is about Darrell and Boulder Options and what he’s doing for the community.”
Bolder Options is an organization focused on youth development. Thompson has worked for the company for 24 years.
“A lot of really good people came out to help us spread the word,” Thompson said.
McKinnie said he also likes giving back to community events.
“It’s definitively a great feeling and something the kids will remember,” he said. “Getting together one-on-one, or like with the kids from Century, they got a chance to ask me questions about players, like Randy Moss or other people I played with. It’s just a chance to get more insight one-on-one.”
THOMPSON KEEPS BUSY
Thompson went to another charity event on Sunday and has another one coming up on Thursday.
“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s fun and always a good time. And it’s always less stressful if it’s not mine.”
Thompson lives in the Twin Cities. He will be part of a Bolder Options golf tournament in Cambridge in September. He said the company raised about $190,000 in the Twin Cities at a fundraiser dinner in May.
This fall, Thompson will again be on the radio broadcast team that does University of Minnesota football games. He is looking forward to a banner Gophers season.
“I like what coach (P.J.) Fleck is doing,” Thompson said. “I think the schedule sets up nice this year, not playing Michigan, not playing Michigan State, Wisconsin’s at home. And I think some other key games are at home. It should be a fun year, especially if they can get it rolling.”
Griffith, who plans to do a “Respect Game Podcast with Robert Griffith” around Aug. 1, also likes the direction the Vikings are going. He says he gets to about four or five games a year.
“I love it,” he said of the talent on the Vikings. “Not to be too blunt, but I think it’s all on the quarterback (Kirk Cousins) now. They’ve got a new tight end (rookie Irv Smith Jr.) who’s really good so now they’re going to be able to go with two tight end sets. Max protect(ion), they have both of the wide receivers signed up. Now it should shore up the offensive line, if they want to play that kind of football.”
Griffith also likes the Vikings’ new training facility in Eagan, and wishes it would have been there during his playing days as a safety in Minnesota (1994-2001).
“If we would have had that, we probably would have gotten a couple of more key free agents that would have come (to the Vikings) and put us over the top,” Griffith said. “That’s an incredible facility.”