Dylan Marette is a third-grader who lives in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Last week he was bullied and beaten at school by several students, resulting in a concussion, loose teeth, split lips and heavy bruising on his face.
His father, Brian Marette, had bought tickets for what was to be Dylan’s first Vikings game. At the hospital after the beating, Dylan, 9, said he no longer wanted to go.
“I threw that out on Twitter, randomly,” Brian said. “People started tagging the Vikings and it took off from there.”
Initially, the Vikings told the Marettes they wanted to “dress him up” in gear for the Vikings-Colts game that Saturday. The team followed up the next day and invited the family to the sideline for pregame warmups.
Adam Thielen took pictures with them and signed autographs. The team gave them a football autographed by Harrison Smith. As security guards were clearing visitors from the sideline, a team official asked the Marettes to wait.
Offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw finished his warmups and brought Dylan a game-used jersey from the Vikings’ epic victory in Buffalo. Darrisaw wrote a personalized autograph and message on the jersey. Paraphrased, it read: “Bullies stink; never forget that you’re the bigger person.”
Darrisaw later noticed on Twitter that the Marettes were going to get the jersey framed, and he arranged to pay for the framing, also telling Dylan to call him any time he needed support.
As Dylan’s story spread on social media, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck invited him to tour the Minnesota football complex, and John Michael Schmitz, the team’s star center, had him run sprints with the offensive linemen.
The Twins heard the story, and when the Marettes got home on Wednesday night there was a package waiting from star center fielder Byron Buxton.
“I never imagined that this could happen,” Brian said. “I’m so used to being destroyed by Minnesota sports. This has been amazing.
“I’m not going to lie, this has made a huge difference for Dylan. To have Christian take the time before a game and then follow up later, to have John Michael Schmitz, as he’s preparing for a bowl game and the draft, go out of his way like that — it’s given Dylan so much confidence.
“John said the same thing as Christian, 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 and said, ‘There’s my buddy.’ “
Brian Marette’s Twitter handle reads: “Favorite teams are anything Minnesota! … I have a wonderful family, 2 beautiful daughters and an awesome son! Skol and Ski U Mah!”
Brian has heard that other local sports teams are looking to help, as well. It started with the Vikings.
“This is amazing community outreach,” Brian said. “There were random people at U.S. Bank Stadium offering to help. There was a guy from Ireland and a lady from France who saw the story on Twitter and wanted to help.
“Dylan has gotten hats and jerseys and the Vikings cheerleaders stopped by the house and dropped off posters and hats. And 7th Avenue Pizza came with like 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 in a five-day span.’
“I’ve cried tears of sorrow and tears of joy multiple times in the last week. It’s life-changing.”
Brian and Dylan wish they hadn’t found themselves in this position, but Minnesota teams have salvaged what could have been a devastating holiday season for the family.
“Originally, they thought Dylan had a fractured upper jaw,” Brian said. “We had to go to emergency dental visits; they sent us to an emergency oral surgeon. We’ve had a doctor’s appointment every single day.
“I would give all of these great things back for my son’s face to look normal. We’ve been at rock bottom, and these people have taken us to the mountains.”