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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)HopeKids provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families suites for sporting events, meet-and-greets with players and more.

Executive director Brian Anderson says with that need still great, they went virtual to connect with the Minnesota Wild.

Kids in the program used to have a chance to do things like visiting the Gopher football team, which they did two years ago. It was an event — and those are now gone.

“We want to give our kids something to look forward to, give them hope and anticipation for the future,” Anderson said. “And we do that through offering them unique events.”

So to meet the challenge this time of year, they turned to their partners at the Wild, and Mats Zuccarello addressed them virtually.

Given the health status of many HopeKids participants, they are a group considered more vulnerable to COVID-19, but that’s not much different than what they already know.

“What’s interesting is a lot of our families are used to this. They are already susceptible to germs,” Anderson said. “In cold and flu season, they’re quarantined. They’re afraid to go out and be exposed to germs in the public. That’s why a lot of our events are private.”

So they need to know that hope still matters.

“It just goes to show that if you dream big, you know, sometimes they panned out,” Zuccarello said. “It’s tough times in the world right now, but we’ve got to say positive and stick together.”

A crisis in the country for people that live with crisis every day, and there needs to be a break.

“Part of it’s a community, too. It’s coming together and knowing that other people who are going through what you’re going through are together, and they get it, so that’s how we compensate. We try and come up with live, virtual events,” Anderson said.

And for this group, bonded by conditions they did not choose, it’s important that the one constant is hope.

“People like it. You know, it’s just knowing that you’re there,” Anderson said. “We’ve always said that HopeKids is here for you yesterday, we’re here for you today, and we’ll be here for you tomorrow. So people embrace it.”

Mike Max