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School visit by Vikings' Ponder a thrill for students

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder signs an autograph for Cala Boesel at Oltman Middle School in Cottage Grove, Minn., on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Boesel won an essay contest and got the football player to visit her school.

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- Oltman Middle School was a sea of purple Tuesday morning to honor the arrival of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.

Seventh-grader Cala Boesel was the reason for Ponder's visit. She wrote an essay about what she's been doing to fight cancer because her younger sister, Ashley, is recovering from the effects of leukemia.

Her mother, Kris Boesel, said Cala should enter the contest to win a Viking visit to her school because of her support for Ashley and cancer research. Last summer, Cala raised $100 at her lemonade stand to donate. Boesel also participated in Daffodil Days supporting the American Cancer Society and was recruited as a speaker for last summer's Relay for Life at East Ridge High School.

Boesel's mother was called at work and told her daughter the news that she had won the contest. "I thought she was kidding," Cala said, "and it ended up happening."

The visit also included a limousine ride with Ponder for Boesel and three friends. She invited Trina Bradley, Briana Mullan and Jenny Daniel, who stayed overnight before the visit.

Ponder was 45 minutes late because the limousine driver went to the wrong house, Boesel said. That left Boesel and her friends "freezing our butts off," waiting for the limousine's arrival.

It was the second time she met Ponder. Last season, Ashley's Make-a-Wish was to attend a Viking's game against the Green Bay Packers. She not only went to the game but the Boesel family got to meet the Minnesota players.

"He's really quiet," Boesel said of Ponder. "He's really nice and cheerful. He also makes people laugh."

Boesel was pleased when students told her Ponder's visit "was really cool."

Ponder was interviewed by language arts students and Boesel asked him about his most embarrassing moment as a child. Ponder was forthright with students when he recalled that another student pulled Ponder's pants down in front of his class.

"I also asked him what he was an expert on in the kitchen," she said, "because most men can't cook."

Ponder detailed his favorite lamb recipe and how much he enjoys grilling.

Kids were also delighted when he told them he likes playing video games for fun, according to teacher Paul Pressnall.

"The students were beyond excited," he said. "They were also respectful and asked great questions.

Ponder's main message for students was that they should exercise and eat healthful food. He also told students not to let other people define who they are and to live by the Golden Rule.

Boesel enjoyed her moment in the spotlight with Ponder but brought the event back to its beginning with her own effort to support the fight against cancer and to support her sister and other members of her family. Her great-grandmother has breast cancer and one of her grandfathers has had cancer and is recovering from a reoccurrence.

"Cancer has to end," she said. "I never expected to win the contest. I just wanted to give back because I'm sick of crying with them. It affects everybody even if you don't have it."

Boesel hopes to become an art teacher when she grows up, or take up shoe design or modeling. "They pay you lots of money for walking around in clothes," she said.

She also steered the conversation back to her concern for her family.

"Please say 'Go, Vikings,' for my mom," Boesel said, "because she's a huge fan."