It doesn’t matter what teams are playing this Tuesday in the Fiesta Bowl for several dozen East Valley teachers.
They’ve already won.
Thanks to three-year-old Fiesta Bowl Charities’ Wishes for Teachers program and the bowl’s generosity, they were among 200 K-12 teachers across Arizona who shared $1 million for school-related wishes that ranged from iPads to classroom furniture.
The $5,000 grants underscore an important feature of the Fiesta Bowl: It is more than just the two highly anticipated college football bowl games the organization hosts each year.
It’s what the Fiesta Bowl does the other 11 months out of the year that the nonprofit organization can’t stress enough.
Since 1971, the Fiesta Bowl has supported nonprofits, built playgrounds, taken children shopping during the holidays, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to teachers throughout the state and so much more.
Over the 2018-19 season alone, the Fiesta Bowl has given $2.5 million to charities.
“We want people to understand that by purchasing tickets with us [to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl held at University of Phoenix Stadium and the Cheez-It Bowl held at Chase Field], you are helping your entire state,” said Fiesta Bowl spokesman Jose Moreno.
Undoubtedly, football is important to the organization, but what most don’t realize is that the game is the vehicle that allows Fiesta Bowl to accomplish its mission – which was rewritten four years ago in an effort to emphasize its nonprofit nature.
The mission states: “The Fiesta Bowl strives to creative a positive economic impact for Arizona and focus on the community while having fun.”
“The one thing you don’t see in either the mission or vision statement is the word ‘football,’” said Fiesta Bowl’s Chief Operating Officer, Bob Whitehouse, at a recent Experience Arizona tourism meeting.
Over the past eight years, Fiesta Bowl Charities has given more than $12.5 million across the state, with over 300 local charitable organizations benefiting from Fiesta Bowl Charities.
This year alone, $2.5 million was distributed among 60 nonprofit organizations, including the Arizona Humane Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix, The Be Kind People Project and more.
To break the numbers down even further, Fiesta Bowl’s impact for the 2018-19 season includes serving one million people, impacting over 400,000 children and 800 veterans, serving over 288,000 meals, providing additional educational programming to 265,000 under-served youth, donating 60,000 backpacks to students, and donating three playgrounds, impacting an estimated 15,000 people.
In addition, over 19,000 hours were volunteered via the Fiesta Bowl organization and its Fiesta Bowl Charities.
In terms of economic impact, in 12 years, the Fiesta Bowl and its surrounding events generated an estimated $2.75 billion for the Arizona economy.
With the money generated from the games and events, Fiesta Bowl Charities is able to give it back to the community, including teachers.
“For some classes, it was musical instruments; for others, just being able to take their class to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. These are things that have truly an impact,” Whitehouse said of Wishes for Teachers. “We’re able to do that because we have so many fans.”
In terms of volunteering, Fiesta Bowl Charities and the 2,500 volunteers who make up the organization began dedicating their time to the community immediately following the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 26.
As part of this year’s Fiesta Bowl event, the organization will host for its 20th year the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge, presented by Kadima.Ventures.
“It’s exciting to be able to serve more and more kids and tell the mission and story of STEM and how it’s impacting the classrooms,” Moreno said.
As part of the challenge, students from about 200 schools across the state work with Honeywell engineers to create a scale model and provide a written report about an International Logistics Mission to colonize Phobos, a moon of Mars.
This year’s challenge will take place at Arizona State University’s West Campus on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25, at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. The finals will take place at the National Bank of Arizona on Feb. 9.
“If you come to this event for 10 minutes and listen to these kids blow these engineers away with how the GPS works on phones, you’re like, ‘OK, what was I doing when I was a 10-year-old?’ These kids have thought through every little detail, and they’re able to do that at no cost,” Whitehouse said.
Moving into the 2019-2020 season, which kicks off in April, Fiesta Bowl Charities plans to impact even more people in need.
“The more that we can do and align our partners with our events and programs that we do that’s going to impact more kids, more veterans, more teachers, that’s a win for us,” Moreno said.