Inspired by the Spring Valley youth group’s modest start that day, the Souper Bowl of Caring has raised more than $50 million, transforming professional football’s biggest weekend into the nation’s largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving.
In 1991 the effort went statewide and by 1993 was national. Prominent national advocates include former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter and their wives, as well as the owners of a half-dozen National Football League teams, such as the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Dolphins.
Presbyterians Bob and Janice McNair, owners of the NFL Houston Texans, worship at Memorial Drive Church in Houston. H. Wayne Huizenga and family, owners of the NFL Miami Dolphins, worship at First Church in Fort Lauderdale.
On Feb. 1, when the Pittsburgh Steelers square off against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIII, nearly 15,000 youth organizations of all denominations and stripes nationwide will wage a more epic battle against hunger and poverty.
Last year, more than 2,300 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring, raising more than $1 million of the $10 million total raised.
The Souper Bowl of Caring is as simple as holding soup pots at church doors following worship on Super Bowl Sunday and asking worshippers to drop in a dollar to help those who are hungry. Each group then donates their collection directly to the charity of their choice — no money is sent to Souper Bowl of Caring headquarters. Organizers simply ask that groups report their collection amount so a national total can be determined.
In many communities, the Souper Bowl has expanded to include a variety of service projects in addition to the Sunday collection of money and food.
“Presbyterians have a rich history and strong tradition of bearing witness of the gospel to the world,” Smith, now an ordained PC(USA) minister who is executive director of the Souper Bowl of Caring, said. “The Souper Bowl of Caring is a contemporary example of that.”
The Presbyterian Hunger Program typically contributes money to the campaign to help meet administrative expenses and provides Souper Bowl resources to PC(USA) congregations.