Dylan Marette is a third grader living in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Last week he was bullied and beaten at school by several third graders, resulting in a concussion, loose teeth, cleft lips and severe bruising on his face.
His father, Brian Marette, had bought tickets to Dylan’s first Viking game. In the hospital after the beating, 9-year-old Dylan said he no longer wanted to walk.
“I happened to post this on Twitter,” Brian said. “People started tagging the Vikings, and it just took off from there.”
Originally, the Vikings told the Marettes they wanted to “dress” him for the Vikings-Colts game that Saturday. The team followed suit the next day and invited the family to the sidelines for a pre-game warm-up.
Adam Thielen took photos with them and signed autographs. The team gifted them a football signed by Harrison Smith. As security forces cleared the visitors from the sidelines, a team official asked the Marettes to wait.
Offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw finished his warm-up and brought Dylan a game-worn jersey from the Vikings’ epic win in Buffalo. Darrisaw wrote a personalized autograph and message on the jersey. Paraphrasing it, it read, “Bullyers stink; never forget you’re the bigger person.”
Darrisaw later noted on Twitter that the Marettes would be framing the jersey, and he arranged for the cost of the framing, as well as telling Dylan to call him anytime he needed assistance.
As Dylan’s story spread on social media, Gophers coach PJ Fleck invited him to tour the Minnesota Football Complex and the team’s star center John Michael Schmitz had him run sprints with the offensive linemen.
The twins heard the story, and when the Marettes got home Wednesday night, there was a package waiting from Star Center fielder Byron Buxton.
“I never thought that could happen,” Brian said. “I’m so used to being devastated by sports in Minnesota. That was incredible.
“I’m not going to lie, that made a huge difference for Dylan. Christian took the time before a game and later reworked having John Michael Schmitz while preparing for a bowl game and the draft so getting out of the way – it gave Dylan so much confidence.
“John said the same thing as Christian did, that he’s there for Dylan if he ever needs him and that Dylan is the strong one, not the bullies. Later, Dylan saw a video of Christian and he pointed at him and said, ‘There’s my mate.’ “
Brian Marette’s Twitter handle reads: “Favorite teams are all Minnesota! … I have a wonderful family, 2 beautiful daughters and an amazing son! Skol and Ski U Mah!”
Brian has heard that other local sports teams also want to help. It started with the Vikings.
“This is amazing publicity,” Brian said. “At US Bank Stadium, random people offered to help. There was a guy from Ireland and a lady from France who saw the story on Twitter and wanted to help.
“Dylan got hats and jerseys and the Viking cheerleaders came by the house bringing posters and hats. And 7th Avenue Pizza came with about 10 frozen pizzas and 10 boxes of ice cream bars. Monday morning Dylan said, ‘I had the worst day of my life and the two best days of my life, all within five days.’
“I’ve cried tears of sorrow and tears of joy several times in the last week. It’s life changing.”
Brian and Dylan wished they hadn’t found themselves in this situation, but the Minnesota teams saved what could have been a devastating holiday season for the family.
“Originally they thought Dylan had a broken upper jaw,” Brian said. “We had to go to emergency dentist visits; they sent us to an emergency oral surgeon. We had a doctor’s appointment every day.
“I would return all these great things to make my son’s face look normal. We were at rock bottom and these people took us to the mountains.”