Super Bowl Sunday could just as easily be called Money Sunday. Millions and millions of dollars are spent by television advertisers; wagerers; people who can afford to see the game in person (a scan of online brokers had individual game tickets ranging from $2,900 to $6,000); and grocery shoppers purchasing party foods and beverages.
The addition of a letter “o” to the event’s title serves as a reminder that less pleasant, yet more important issues exist other than football — such as everyday hunger.
“Souper Bowl of Caring” assists underprivileged people by diverting some of the staggering cash flow on Super Bowl weekend, which this year falls on Feb. 3-4. This is done by youth groups nationwide, including a number of parishes in the Diocese of Rochester.
The Souper Bowl tradition is especially rich at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Elmira. According to Cecilia Ryan, youth minister, overall collections have totaled nearly $12,000 since she began overseeing the Souper Bowl of Caring there in 1997.
“We all need to be aware of the world around us and how many people are in need, even in this country. So much money is spent on the Super Bowl game, it seems obscene,” Ryan commented. “I just think people need to be made aware of the drastic disparity.”
Young people typically stand at church entranceways after Super Bowl weekend Masses, holding soup bowls or kettles to receive donations. At Ss. Peter and Paul, youth-group members play up the football angle by wearing jerseys and collecting funds with helmets. Ryan said she suggests that people donate the equivalent of what they might spend on a Super Bowl snack, such as a large bag of potato chips costing at least $3.
Parishes designate Souper Bowl funds to the charities of their choice, usually within their own communities. For instance, Ss. Peter and Paul puts all its donations toward the Elmira Free Community Kitchen, a soup kitchen located in its parish center. Two years ago a number of parishes ended up splitting their Souper Bowl proceeds, so as to aid people affected by the tsunami that struck a section of Southeast Asia in late 2004. All Saints Parish in Lansing earmarked Souper Bowl monies for tsunami relief while also continuing its support of the local Task Force for Battered Women; and in Schuyler Catholic Community, funds went to tsunami victims as well as Schuyler Outreach, a local Catholic Charities food bank.
The Souper Bowl of Caring was founded in 1990 by a group of Presbyterian youths from South Carolina. It now operates as an ecumenical effort in all 50 states as well as Canada. According to the Souper Bowl Web site, last year $4 million was raised for charities, with more than 11,000 organizations taking part.
One interesting link on the Web site (www.souperbowl.org) offers a profile of South Florida, being that Miami is the host city for the upcoming Super Bowl. It notes that 36 percent of children in Fort Lauderdale-area schools qualify for food stamps, and the median price of a home in the Miami area is $350,000, while the median household income is only $35,000.