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VOL. 126 | NO. 24 | Friday, February 4, 2011

Charities Turn Super Sunday into Day of Giving

By Aisling Maki

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Several Memphis-based nonprofits are using Super Bowl Sunday as an opportunity to encourage citizens to give back to their community.

For the seventh year in a row, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, a nonprofit housing ministry dedicated to providing decent housing for all members of the community, is asking football fans to party with a purpose this Sunday for its annual Home Team Huddle.

After registering by phone or on the organization’s website, party hosts receive a party pack that includes an event T-shirt, coasters, eco-friendly water bottles, posters, stickers, pens, recipes and other festive promotional items.

“A lot of the hosts have been doing this for several years, so word has spread and it’s kind of grown organically,” said Jessica Neal Hord, sponsorship and community relations director for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. “A lot of folks are volunteers who are a little bit invested in Memphis Habitat and they do this because they love what we do and want to do more to support us.”

In 2010, the year with the most registered parties, Home Team Huddle raised $17,000 for the nonprofit. Hosts and attendees are eligible for prizes. They can also be entered into Habitat’s grand prize drawing, which is an NFL weekend getaway for two to the city of their choice, Hord said.

MIFA this Sunday will host its 11th annual Souper Bowl of Caring, an initiative that encourages youth to help tackle hunger, which, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regularly affects one in six Americans (one in four children).

“We ask church youth groups and individuals who are giving Super Bowl parties to help support our food program,” said MIFA Inter-Faith Coordinator Linda Marks. “They either collect money after the Sunday service in soup pots or football helmets, or they ask people to bring a donation to a Super Bowl party, maybe the cost of one meal, which is about $7 at MIFA.”

The Souper Bowl of Caring began in 1990 with a group of South Carolina churches and grew tremendously to become a national project, backed by the NFL since 2004.

A number of local groups are participating this year, including Jewish student organization Hillel of Memphis, and Downtown’s Trinity Lutheran Church. The church will host a family fun day with entertainment, which includes watching the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Proceeds from those events will benefit MIFA Meals, which serves about 1,800 meals each day.

“We really struggle with increasing need and flat funding,” Marks said. “We encourage any and all participation and people taking opportunities to learn more about our meals program and the need.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is asking football fans to join in the battle against childhood cancer by hosting a “Game Day. Give Back.” party.

Registered hosts can download party-planning resources and can set up their own official event website to spread the word and collect donations. Hosts can also opt to organize a virtual party and invite friends from around the world to donate.

The host raising the most money will receive a VIP trip for four to the 2010 Legends for Charity event, a who’s who of the world of sports and broadcasting that will take place in Indianapolis the Thursday evening before Super Bowl 2012.

The most high-profile “Game Day. Give Back.” party will take place Sunday at 5 p.m. at Graceland, 3764 Elvis Presley Blvd. The party will be held on the north front lawn of the Presley estate in a heated tent decorated in a style similar to Elvis’ TV room in the mansion.

Attendees include Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, former county mayors Bill Morris and Jim Rout, former University of Memphis and NFL football star Billy Fletcher, George Klein and Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising arm.

The Super Bowl XLV benefit watch party and auction will mark only the second time an event has been held anywhere on the Graceland property since Elvis’ passing.

“Elvis supported a variety of charities and St. Jude was always important to him,” said Kevin Kern, director of public relations for Elvis Presley Enterprises. “We continue his legacy of giving back by hosting and supporting this unique fundraiser for a worthy cause.”

Tickets for the Super Bowl XLV party at Graceland are $500 each and can be purchased by calling 373-5051.

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