LOUISVILLE — The annual “Souper Bowl of Caring” anti-hunger campaign will kick of this year with a goal of $4 million from 15,000 congregations, schools and other organizations. The Feb. 1 fundraiser takes advantage of the National Football League championship game to raise money for the poor.
“Although the Souper Bowl of Caring is a small step in the fight against hunger, it is a way for young people to put God’s love into action by developing a heart for helping others,” said the Rev. Brad Smith, the Presbyterian minister who began the fundraiser 14 years ago in Columbia, S.C.
Since its inception, the program raised more than $20 million for food banks, soup kitchens and other charities. Last year alone, over 12,000 churches, schools and other groups participated to raise more than $3.5. The record in $3.6 million, set in 2001.
During Souper Bowl Sunday, volunteers, mostly youth, stand outside of U.S. churches with large soup pots, collecting money and canned goods. So Souper Bowl gives a chance for all family members to help.
“The goal is for these young people to see they can make a difference and continue contributing through volunteerism when they reach adulthood,” said Smith.
The kick-off for the event began last November, with an initial contribution made by Bob and Janice McNair, the honorary chairs for 2004. Former President George Bush and his wife Barbara as well as a group of youth joined the McNairs on the sideline before the game began. Outside the stadium gates, young people collected almost $1,200 for the Houston Food Bank.
“We are grateful for the McNairs’ participation and willingness to encourage youth in their efforts to help others,” Smith said.
A "Blitzathon” has been added this year. On Jan. 21, organizers will start a 2,000-mile motor-home journey to 10 cities in 10 days, ending in Houston, the site of the NFL Super Bowl. During stops in cities including Philadelphia, Charlotte, NC, and Washington, DC, organizers and local teens will volunteer in food banks and soup kitchens and promote the Souper Bowl.
Organizers also hope to bring congregations to the kettles with a “Souper Bowl Service Blitz” on Saturday, Jan. 31, when church youth groups are encouraged to serve in local soup kitchens, food banks and related charities. The idea is to promote the Souper Bowl while getting young people involved in the fight against hunger.
Participating groups are asked only to report contributions so that a national total can be calculated. All the money is given to local charities chosen by the people who raise it.