The Truth... What is it?

 The Souper Bowl of Caring

In 1990 (Columbia, S. C.), on the Sunday morning of the Super Bowl football game, a simple pastoral prayer inspired a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world. The prayer was, "Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat."

This simple prayer, delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to an idea. Why not ask parishioners to give one dollar each for the needy as they leave worship on Super Bowl Sunday? Young people could receive the donations then send every dollar DIRECTLY to the charity of their choice. Participants would only be asked to report their results so that the totals could be determined.

The senior high youth of Spring Valley Presbyterian liked the idea so much they decided to invite other area churches to join the team. Twenty-two Columbia churches participated that first year, sending $5,700 to area ministries that help needy people. That was 1990.

The effort went statewide in 1991 and national in 1993. In 1997, youth groups in congregations across the country broke the million dollar barrier, sending $1.1 million to charities in their respective communities. Later that year an ecumenical Board was formed to take over the guidance and governance of the Souper Bowl.

In January 2001, roughly 125,000 young people in over 12,500 congregations and schools put God's love in action, generating $3.6 million to help hungry and hurting people. Remarkably, all of this was done without the benefit of full-time staff. In November of 2001, the Souper Bowl of Caring achieved another milestone when the Council of Stewards hired Brad Smith to serve as the full-time Executive Director of this grassroots movement of God’s love.

Since the Souper Bowl's inception and late 2013, youth participants have generated an aggregate of over $98 million, 100% of which has gone to local soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the USA in which the funds were collected. In addition, more and more youth are serving hands-on at the charity their group supports. On 1 Feb. 2014, Spring Valley Presbyterian Church began what they hope will be an associated annual Saturday Day of Service event to go along with the cash collections on Super Bowl Sunday. In 2010, Tracy Bender became the new President & CEO as Rev. Brad Smith became senior pastor at Eastminister Presbyterian Church in Columbia in 2009 and is still there as of Super Bowl weekend, 2014.

With this strong history, the Souper Bowl of Caring is poised to touch even more lives in the years to come, its headquarters having moved to Houston, Texas with support from the Houston Texans owner, R. C. "Bob" McNair (no kin to former S. C. governor, R. E. McNair).



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[posted 6 Feb. 2002; latest addition 1 Feb. 2014]


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