MINNEAPOLIS - The Augsburg College men's hockey team raised thousands of dollars in a matter of hours to allow a beloved college custodian to visit his family overseas.
Minasie Theophilos, 54, oversees Augsburg's ice arena, known widely for his pride in his job and keeping the rink spotless. Theophilos left his home in Ethiopia 33 years ago and has never had a chance to return to visit this family. He's been employed by Augsburg as a custodian for 25 years.
"A month and a half ago, my mother passed away, and each one of these kids signed a card, came one by one gave me a hug," said Theophilos. "That’s a great team, very friendly, very disciplined, hard-working kids really, and I love them very much."
The Auggies men's hockey team didn't stop there and decided to set up a fundraiser for Theophilos. In 24 hours, the GoFundMe fundraiser surpassed its original goal of $3,000.
The page stated, "Recently, his mother passed away, a very sad and emotional day at Augsburg. We found out he was unable to afford to see her and we want to provide him the opportunity to visit with his father and family. We feel that after all the time and energy of Minasie serving us, we would like to return the favor and unite him with his family!"
After practice Wednesday morning, the team presented Theophilos with a check for more than $5,000.
"A token to give you thanks for your selflessness, your service, your care to the rink and the guys and we just want to say we love you, we are going to get you home," said Jordyn Kaufer, a senior goalie, who handed the check to an emotional Theophilos.
"There’s energy that you bring to our team, whether it’s a smile, you are contagious in what you do, and you treat us like kings," said Chris Johnson, the Auggie's assistant hockey coach, to Theophilos.
The money will allow Theophilos to travel to Norway to visit his brother, who lives there, while their father also visits. The team plans to continue fundraising to send Theophilos and his wife to Ethiopia for an extended stay next winter.
Theophilos originally came to Augsburg College to study as a student. What he didn't realize, all these years later, his family was closer than he ever knew.
"There is nothing really more joyful than working for such a people, this is the greatest thing I have ever decided when I started working at Augsburg, and I love each one of you guys," he told the team.
Augsburg is truly in his family. Two of Theophilos' children graduated from the college.