politics

Vikings Owner Mark Wilf Went to the Poland-Ukraine Border to Help Refugees – Here's What He Saw

Source: Jewish Federations of North America
  • Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf recently returned from the Poland-Ukraine border, where he was helping relief efforts.
  • "The needs are just simply overwhelming," Wilf told CNBC. "It was a combination of exhaustion, shock, as well as where to go next for the refugees."
  • Wilf chairs the Jewish Federations of North America, a group that estimates it has already been able to help more than 40,000 elderly Jewish refugees and 2,500 Jewish children in the Ukraine strife.

With the NFL's annual meetings set for this weekend, Minnesota Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf has more on his mind than just football.

Last week, he brought a humanitarian group to the Poland-Ukraine board to help with relief efforts as Ukrainian refugees flee Russia's invasion. The trip was carried out under the Jewish Federations of North America, which he chairs.

"The needs are just simply overwhelming," Wilf told CNBC. "It was a combination of exhaustion, shock, as well as where to go next for the refugees. This will be with us for a long time, no matter how this wraps up politically or militarily."

Wilf said the Jewish Federations have raised a collective $40 million in Ukrainian aid, and they plan to return to the region for more humanitarian trips. Funds are going toward sustaining displaced Jews who are in camps and shelters without basic needs such as food, medicine and clothing. The group is also providing financial assistance to the elderly, families and others who are the most vulnerable.

"They're just trying to get their lives in order," Wilf said. "Their entire lives are being uprooted." They're also being traumatized by the violence and death they're witnessing, he added.

Wilf said he's particularly concerned about war's youngest victims.

"I look at these young children, I say, what is their future going to be like, how are they going to look back at this period of their life because it's obviously going to be impactful for the rest of their lives," he said.

Wilf said a lot of his time at the border was spent listening and meeting different families experiencing the crisis in their own ways.

"We met parents with three young children that literally had all their life belongings in a shopping cart. They had a nice middle-class life, their young girls were taking dance lessons two weeks ago, and here they are now with their home destroyed and nothing to go home to," he said.

The organization estimates it has already been able to help more than 40,000 elderly Jewish refugees and 2,500 Jewish children.

But Wilf and his group aren't done yet.

The Vikings boss said he plans to tell his fellow owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the devastation he witnessed.

"I'm sure next weeks meetings, there will be an opportunity to further the conversation."

Wilf also said the Vikings are starting to have internal conversations about how the team and its players can promote awareness about the horrors of the Ukraine war.

"Any way to give back to these folks, would be very much appreciated because there's a lot of need," he said.

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