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Souper Bowl puts kind spin on big game

Nicole Phillips, Kindness is Contagious columnist Photo courtesy Ann Fredricks Photography

Super Bowl Sunday: the best time of year to buy a big-screen TV or football-themed paper plates. The hype behind the biggest game of the year has become its own beast. This year, the cost of one of those 30 second commercials we all love to watch will go for $7.7 million. Yikes.

Back in 1990, a seminary intern at a church in South Carolina said a little prayer: "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."

That prayer gave birth to an idea that has spread and multiplied many times over. For nearly three decades, youth-led groups across the nation have been using Super Bowl Sunday as an opportunity to collect money and canned goods for local food banks. It's called the Souper Bowl of Caring.

If you ever wonder if a few people and some spare change can make a big impact, here's just one example.

Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minn., has been participating in the Souper Bowl project since 2003. Last year, through the efforts of six kids, they were able to donate $284 to the Dorothy Day Food Pantry. The year before, four kids collected $164 and 10 food items.

Even more impressive is the cumulative effect of those years of service. In the past 14 years, the youth in that church have donated $3,500 and 263 items.

The Souper Bowl of Caring group explains the benefits for both the individual communities and the volunteers. "...ordinary young people have generated an extraordinary more than $100 million for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the country. In addition, hundreds of thousands of youth have experienced for themselves the joy and satisfaction of giving and serving, inspiring people of all ages to follow their generous example."

Sometimes we overthink things or make them big and complicated, at least I do. To me, that's the beauty of the Souper Bowl. It's as work intensive or relaxed as the kids want to make it.

For example, at Our Savior's, the note in the newsletter asks people to bring a canned or boxed item along with any loose change to the church services on Super Bowl Sunday. That's it.

The power comes from the thousands of youth groups across the country doing the exact same thing on the exact same day. Since each group gets to give their donations to the local charity of their choice, we end up with a nation of soup bowls being filled for the hungry.

Yes, the game is fun and so is the hype, but adding a little kindness to the equation creates a winning game plan every time.

You can get involved with the Souper Bowl of Caring project or learn how to start your own group at souperbowl.org.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University's men's head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at " target="_blank">nicolejphillips.com.