The Fiesta Bowl: More than Just a Game

Among bowl games, it leads the nation in community charitable giving

by Tyler Butler

In only a few short weeks, the Fiesta Bowl will once again bring a national focus to our local community. Who will face off at that time is not yet known, but Arizona can count on the immense impact that this event will have on the community as a result. With partners like PlayStation, Cheez-It, Wells Fargo and more, the organization is powered by some household names while helping causes of all sizes locally.

Many people associate the Fiesta Bowl with only high-level college football. It is, however, making a mark for itself in so many more meaningful ways. “When the Fiesta Bowl was created in 1971, our founders made a commitment that the Fiesta Bowl would be Arizona’s largest and most important community effort in history,” says Fiesta Bowl Chairman of the Board Patrick Barkley. “We live that every day through our community impact to enhance the lives of Arizonans by championing charitable causes, creating innovative experiences and driving economic growth.”

Giving back has been at the core of the Fiesta Bowl since the organization was founded. Through its Fiesta Bowl Charities and fueled by the spirit of competition, the organization continues to be dedicated to serving the community. Through year-round activities that include charitable giving, volunteer service throughout the state, donations and more, the Fiesta Bowl is contributing to enhancing the lives of Arizonans. To make the deepest impact, the organization focuses on nonprofits that serve in the areas of youth, sports and education.

The Fiesta Bowl’s public-facing programs enable it to make positive change possible. It is through a robust grant process that includes a month-long application period and a thorough evaluation and deliberation period that Fiesta Bowl Charities decides which worthy charitable organizations will receive funding. Fiesta Bowl Charities offers different levels of grants: $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000. With that tiered level of giving, the beneficiaries can create meaningful programming and make a deeper impact within their spheres.

One instance of immediate positive impact is the eight playgrounds across the state that Fiesta Bowl Charities has built in partnership with KaBOOM! to give children a state-of-the art playground that provides health and wellness for thousands of youth. Also, from the 70,000-square-foot field that the Cheez-It Bowl is played on, the turf is donated to a community in need after it is pulled up from Chase Field. This donation alone gives Arizona youth the unique chance to play on the same surface as some of college football’s best players.

All Fiesta Bowl events and Fiesta Bowl Charities activities fulfill Fiesta Bowl’s mission of giving back to the community while having fun. The organization’s mantra of “More than Just a Game” defines all it does on a daily basis and is the core of its events and charitable activities. Through its focus on partnership, the organization has been able to launch many amazing programs.

DriveTime joined as the title partner of Fiesta Bowl’s Wishes for Teachers program because of its shared commitment to education. Through Wishes for Teachers, the Fiesta Bowl organization annually grants $1 million to Arizona’s teachers; it provided a $5,000 wish to 200 teachers in the 2019-20 school year for the second straight year and has donated $3.2 million to teachers in the four-year history of the program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, another sponsor, is involved in several non-game-related endeavors, such as being the title partner of Fiesta Bowl’s volunteer program, a World Record community activity and other philanthropic efforts. “Charitable giving is core to the Fiesta Bowl mission, as all we do throughout the year with our events and games helps us build a base that we donate back to the community,” says Mike Nealy, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl. “I love seeing how each nonprofit puts its funds into action. From building playgrounds to laying new turf in communities, we have seen some impressive projects.”

This commitment has now positioned the Fiesta Bowl as the largest bowl-game donor to community in charitable giving nationally. This proud tradition of giving back and engaging the community will continue as the Valley of the Sun hosts the 2019 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl.

Catch the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Events

  • Cheez-It Bowl will take place on Friday, December 27th.
  • PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will take place on Saturday, December 28th.
  • The Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade, presented by Cheez-It, provides attendees the chance to join 100,000 spectators in Central Phoenix. It has featured a “Who’s Who” as Grand Marshals and includes 2,500 individuals who participate as volunteers, marching bands and community groups, plus automobiles, equestrian acts, balloons, floats and much more. The Parade is free to the public and is held on the final Saturday of December.

Tyler Butler (“Tyler Butler | Giving in Style”), founder and CEO of 11Eleven Consulting, is a corporate social responsibility practitioner and expert leader in the corporate citizenship space. She has served on numerous national and local boards and is often cited as a subject matter expert by Forbes, Entrepreneur, U.S. News & World Report and more.

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