Val Osborn, mother of Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn, is Down for the Challenge

Jun 20, 2023

Val Osborn is the mother of Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn. She is participating in this year’s Down for the Challenge urban rappelling event because she and K.J. know firsthand how important The Salvation Army’s homeless prevention programs are. 

Thirteen years ago, Val needed rent assistance while she was enduring the hardest chapter of her life in the family’s hometown of Ypsilanti, Mich. At the time, she owned a small cleaning business and worked part-time at a dental office, all while she was in school to be a dental hygienist. 

Many days, she would clean a car dealership until 2 a.m. while K.J. and her daughter Kiera slept in the customer lounge. 

“It was the hardest thing I’d ever done,” Val recalled. “But I had no other choice. It was do or die.”

Several years earlier, she had accepted a buyout for her job at an automobile manufacturing plant, where she’d worked for a decade. She used the buyout money to enroll in dental hygiene school and forge a new life after her recent divorce.    

“Working on an assembly line was not for me,” Val admitted. “I wanted something different for me and my kids.”

When times were hardest, Val received rent assistance on two occasions – once from The Salvation Army, and once from an anonymous donor who came to her apartment complex office with a surprise blessing. 

Both gifts were the best that Val has ever received. 

“It felt like a miracle,” she said. “I can’t describe how good it felt to not have to struggle for just one month.”

Paying it forward

The rent assistance Val received helped her to finish dental hygiene school. Today, she and her family could not be doing better. Val is flourishing in her career. Kiera was recently accepted to law school. And K.J. is a starting wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings. 

The family is living to their fullest potential, thanks in part to the generosity of strangers who cared enough to help them when they were struggling. 

Now they’re paying it forward. Ever since K.J. joined the Vikings, he and his family have been determined to share their blessings.  

“When K.J. was drafted, I told him he needed to pay somebody’s rent because I personally know how important that is,” Val said. “I encouraged him to use his platform for good.”  

K.J. followed through and is now a major supporter of The Salvation Army and our rent assistance programs. In December, he provided rent assistance funds for four families served by The Salvation Army – two families in Ypsilanti and two families in the Twin Cities (see video below).

Val presented the funds to the families in Ypsilanti (pictured right) and was thrilled to do so.  

“I thank God for this wonderful opportunity to share our testimony to people who are struggling,” she said. “People lose hope because they don’t think anybody is listening. But there are good people out here who want to help.” 

And, for the second year in a row, K.J. is a key supporter of Down for the Challenge.

“I’m proud to support The Salvation Army and all the great things they do for the people of Minnesota,” said K.J., a fan favorite who has caught several game-winning touchdowns during the past two seasons. “It’s only right that in my position that God has blessed me with, that I bless somebody else.” 

Val is excited to rappel, and she is thankful for the help she received while she was raising her kids. 

“We tell our story to give people hope,” Val said. “I’m always telling my story to my dental patients, whether they’re single mothers, single fathers, or married parents. There is hope out there. You can do it – you just have to get out there and try.”

Down for the Challenge seeks to raise $600,000 for Salvation Army housing and homelessness-prevention programs. 

Are you Down for the Challenge? You can support The Salvation Army’s efforts to fight homelessness by donating to or participating in our Down for the Challenge urban rappelling event with the Minnesota Vikings. This adrenaline-pumping event takes place July 28-29 at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel during Vikings training camp.

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