Public figures across Minnesota show they care about giving back to their community by doing a lot more than just writing a sizable check. From business to athletics to entertainment, many among our ranks have used their success and fame to fuel greater goals in medicine, education, and society. Be it through leadership, ingenuity, event planning, or other talents, these seven celebrated locals are helping to make Minnesota—and the world—a better place.
Halima Aden was born and raised in a Kenyan refugee camp, where UNICEF empowered her with an education. Now, Aden is a model who gained national attention as the first to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, in 2016. Then, in 2019, she made a splash as the first to wear a hijab and burkini in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Beyond working to diversify representations of beauty, Aden is giving back as a UNICEF Ambassador. She wants to inspire hope in children who grow up in circumstances like hers, to show them that they, too, can find success.
People know Andrew Dayton from his family’s role in local politics (as son of former governor Mark Dayton); his co-owned businesses Askov Finlayson, the Bachelor Farmer, and Marvel Bar; and the upcoming Dayton’s Project. But he is also the founder and CEO of the Constellation Fund, a grantmaking nonprofit that provides unrestricted funding and support from pro bono partners to organizations trying to affect social issues. “Minnesota is the most generous state in America, yet we have many of the worst socioeconomic disparities to show for it,” he says. “When I learned that other cities were employing a proven philanthropic model that brought a modern, evidence-driven approach to poverty alleviation, I knew that we needed it here in the Twin Cities.”
A four-time Supercross champion and three-time world motocross champion, Minnesota native Ryan Dungey is the 2019 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Ambassador of the Year. Determined to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, Dungey founded the annual St. Jude Ride and 5K Run in 2012. Last year, he partnered with Monster Energy Supercross to launch the “This Shirt Saves Lives” awareness and fundraising campaign. “We all have something to offer and give, whether it’s money or time,” Dungey says. “[Working with St. Jude] is one of the best investments of your time because it can truly help save and change other people’s lives in ways you never thought possible.”
Falen Bonsett Gottler
When not making the Twin Cities laugh as co-host on 101.3 KDWB’s The Dave Ryan Show, Falen Bonsett Gottler looks out for Minnesota’s furry citizens through work with Pause 4 Paws. “We all love animals,” says the radio personality. Founded by Jill Goldstein, Pause 4 Paws raises money for local smaller-name groups that are dedicated to the rescue and care of animals. “They’re out in the trenches actually doing all the work—saving the animals, rescuing them, placing them in homes. They didn’t have time to do a lot of fundraising,” Gottler says.
After more than two decades of public service, including serving as CEO of MNsure, Allison O’Toole shifted in January to leading Second Harvest Heartland. Among her goals for one of the largest U.S. food banks? To open a new hunger relief center in Brooklyn Park in 2020. Through it, Second Harvest will be able to deliver even more meals than the estimated 100 million pounds distributed this year. “Our community is defined and made strong by a spirit of neighbors helping neighbors,” she says. “When people realize that one in 11 people are hungry here in the heartland where there’s more than enough food to go around, they are inspired to take action. I am, too.”
While playing as a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, Alan Page earned All-Pro honors six times, the title of Most Valuable Player, his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his law degree. Shortly before beginning his first term on the Minnesota Supreme Court, Page began the Page Education Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to make post-secondary education more accessible for Minnesotan students of color. “The community at large benefits,” he says. “All we did, both [my wife Diane] and I, was create the opportunity for young people to do some great things.” So far, the organization has provided $14 million in grants to students who have in turn volunteered over 420,000 hours as mentors and tutors.
When high-profile tight end Kyle Rudolph signed a contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings this past summer, it also extended his ability to do good locally. One of his many efforts for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone, featuring a sports simulator, a family forest (quiet space), an indoor basketball court, and more for patients and their families. Rudolph won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Charity Challenge earlier this year, in part due to the viral “Dear Kyle” video, released by the Vikings, showing him getting visibly emotional while reading letters from kids thanking him for his support. (Read the full Q&A.)