Charity fundraiser gets ‘Souper’ results

Richard Eckstrom S.C. Comptroller

Sunday, February 6th, was a special time for our nation: the Super Bowl, one of America’s great traditions. Americans from all walks of life got together with friends and family, and for a few short hours all eyes were fixed on the same cold football field.

But while most thoughts were on football, many also took time to remember the plight of those less fortunate.

This year marked the 21st anniversary of the Souper Bowl of Caring, an annual fundraiser to provide food and financial assistance to those who need it. The Souper Bowl was born in 1990 in Columbia, South Carolina, when young people from Spring Valley Presbyterian Church sought a way to address hunger in their community. The idea was to tap into enthusiasm for the “big game” and make Super Bowl weekend a time of giving. After deciding to hold a fundraiser, the teens liked the idea so much they invited youth groups from other churches to join in the effort, and a total of 22 churches raised $5,700 that first year.

They probably couldn’t have imagined how successful their efforts would be. The following year, the Souper Bowl expanded to churches across the state, and by 1993 youth groups from 36 states were participating. In 1997, Souper Bowl volunteers from across the country collected more than $1 million for the first time.

So far this year, more than 9,700 groups of young volunteers have generated a whopping $8.2 million.

From that modest local fundraising idea sprang a national movement that has raised nearly $70 million since its inception -- and touched countless lives. Organizers commit 100 percent of the proceeds directly to organizations that help people in need. The youth groups raising the money even get to decide which charities they choose to support.

It’s a worthy cause, and a noteworthy model of success.

Even in unremarkable times, it’s important for those who have enough to meet their own needs to share their blessings with those who do not. Such generosity is even more critical during bad economic times like we’re currently in, when many are out of work and without income.

During this time of economic hardship for so many, those youth volunteers from two decades ago should be particularly proud of their efforts – as should all those who looked beyond their own needs and pitched in.