Friday Knights Hunger Bowl donations reach new heights

Special to The Message

The 7th Annual Friday Knights Hunger Bowl raised more than $25,700 for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry! The Sept. 8 game, featuring Reitz Memorial High School hosted Mater Dei High School, took place at Enlow Field in Evansville. Reitz Memorial won the game, 9-6.

Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr, third from left, manager of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Evansville, accepts a ceremonial check for $25,736.60 from members of the 2023 Knights Hunger Bowl Committee. Shown are committee member Nick Hermann of Council #7544, St. Benedict Cathedral Parish; co-chair John Sandwell of Auxilio Council #16454, St. Phillip Parish, Posey Country, and Corpus Christi Parish, Evansville; Joe Cook, Executive Director of the Evansville District of St. Vincent de Paul; co-chair Mark Hackert of Council #7544; and Martin Stagg of Council #7544. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

Hunger Bowl fundraising totals have grown from $3,151.36 the first year (2017) to $25,736.60 in 2023. The seven-year total is more than $84,000!  

Students at Reitz Memorial and Mater Dei High Schools, students at Evansville-area Catholic elementary schools, area Knights of Columbus Councils and game attendees collected funds and made donations.  Special thanks to the cheerleaders of both teams for assisting with the halftime collections.  Each year, the Hunger Bowl committee has worked to involve more people, more Knights of Columbus councils, more schools and more parishes to grow the amount of support for the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. 

The Friday Knights Hunger Bowl began seven years ago with a conversation between Knights John Sandwell, of Auxilio Council #16454 (St. Philip, Parish, Posey County, and Evansville’s Corpus Christi Parish) and Mark Hackert, of Council #7544 (St. Benedict Cathedral Parish).  Sandwell had read an article the Knights of Columbus magazine “Columbia” about two Florida Catholic high schools that raised money to purchase turkeys for the needy at Thanksgiving, calling their event the Turkey Bowl.  

That prompted Sandwell and Hackert to discuss how Evansville-area Knights councils could work together toward a worthy goal. The conversation turned to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr, the food pantry coordinator, who had been a teacher at Mater Dei. And just like that, the Friday Knights Hunger Bowl was born. 

Sister Donna Marie said, “The money raised by donations supporting the Hunger Bowl will pay our bills for at least six weeks. It all goes to people in need.” She noted that, during August alone, the food pantry served approximately 3,000 people representing 1,300 households. 

She added, “We are thrilled with the assistance because we have been very busy. We would not be able to operate without the support of so many people, and we are truly grateful to the Knights of Columbus and everyone who has supported the Hunger Bowl over the past seven years.”

Sandwell and Hackert have served as Friday Knights Hunger Bowl co-chairs since its inception. Joining them on the committee this year were Joe Cook, Executive Director of the Evansville District of St. Vincent de Paul; Nick Hermann, of K of C Council #7544; Martin Stagg of K of C Council #7544, Julie Folz, St. Vincent de Paul volunteer; and Laila Shu of Regent Promotions in Evansville.

Area K of C councils participating this year include Council #565 of Evansville’s west side, the original Evansville-area council; Council #14673 of Good Shepherd Parish, Evansville; Council #7544 of St. Benedict Cathedral Parish, Evansville; Council #8746 of St. John the Baptist Parish, Newburgh; Council #12541 of Holy Redeemer Parish, Evansville; Council # 14659 of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Daylight; Auxilio Council #16454 of St. Philip Parish, Posey County, and Corpus Christi Parish, Evansville; and Council #15092, Annunciation Parish, Evansville.