Super Bowl Sunday is just days away. And there’s still time to make it “Souper.”

Millions of people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl football game on Feb. 3 between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. Thanks to an effort born in South Carolina more than 2-1/2 decades ago, the big day is also an occasion for caring and unity.

At the close of worship services across the country on Sunday, young people will stand at the doors of their churches with soup pots and collect money for the annual Souper Bowl of Caring.

The effort reminds us that while many have the luxury of watching a football game in the warmth of homes with abundant snack options, many others are struggling to survive without adequate shelter or food.

In preparing a pastoral prayer to be delivered on Super Bowl Sunday 1988, the petition, “Lord, as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without even a bowl of soup to eat” came to the mind of Brad Smith, then a seminary intern at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

The line lingered in Smith’s mind, crystallizing some months later with the idea of inviting parishioners to give $1 each for hurting and hungry people as they left worship the morning of the big game. Young people would collect the donations in large soup pots with each church then sending their proceeds to the charity of their choice. Organizers would ask for only a report so that the aggregate could be determined.

Upon completing seminary and returning to the Spring Valley church as associate pastor, Smith shared the idea with the church’s Senior High Youth in January 1990. The young people and Smith contacted Columbia churches. Twenty-two congregations joined that first effort and, bolstered by the contributions of several area businesses, the effort generated $5,700 for the poor. Churches from seven different denominations participated.

The Souper Bowl went statewide in 1991 and 1992 with 146 and 310 churches joining the team. In 1993, the first national Souper Bowl took place. The efforts paid off as 885 congregations from roughly 30 states teamed up to raise $144,000.

The Souper Bowl continued to grow rapidly and is today a national youth-led movement based in Houston. During its history, more than $100 million has been raised to fight hunger and poverty.

In 2019, more than 500 groups are participating in the effort.

The purpose is still the same: To promote caring and help for those in need, with money raised being used in the locales from where it comes.

Not to forgotten are the efforts born of Souper Bowl but not directly related. Locally and around the country, churches and other organizations are planning their own efforts to help others.

Thanks to caring and sharing, it will be a Souper Bowl — no matter who wins the game.

To find out more about giving and helping, visit www.souperbowl.org

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