By Andy Simmons – Reader’s Digest
One party launched a charity now helping thousands of people experiencing homelessness.
If Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are our nation’s biggest official holidays, certainly Super Bowl Sunday is our biggest unofficial holiday. Like those other days, it’s a time for friends and family to gather for food, chatter and arguments. But mostly camaraderie. Some people living on the margins of society miss that special connection.
Meir Kalmanson thought they, too, should get to celebrate the big day. So on a cold February Sunday in 2017, as he headed to a Super Bowl party at a New York City club a friend owned, he invited six homeless men he met on the street to climb into an Uber and join him.
The men, as might be expected, were a tad leery. But Kalmanson, now 33, has an earnestness and an innate decency about him that put people at ease, and the men were swayed. Watch the game? Go somewhere warm? Get food to fill an empty belly? Of course!
Over burgers, wings and soda, bedecked in New England Patriots jerseys, Kalmanson and his homeless guests watched the Patriots claw back from a 25-point hole to beat the Atlanta Falcons. Kalmanson describes the scene as “warm, exciting energy. Conversation flowed. We were on the edge of our seats. Cheering, laughing.”
But the game played just a small role in the night’s success, he says. More important was the men’s interaction with one another and the other fans.
“We were part of a bigger party that was happening,” says Kalmanson. “So if you walked in you couldn’t tell who was homeless and who wasn’t.” As a result, “the men felt that they were part of something. They had their dignity restored.”
For that evening, they were no longer outsiders. They belonged.
Kalmanson, aka Meir Kay to the 319,000 YouTube followers who watch his inspirational videos, assumed that the party was a one-off. But the following year, when friends and YouTube fans asked about the next Super Bowl party, he knew the event had already taken on a life of its own.
And so began the charitable organization Super Soul Parties (supersoulparty.org). Kalmanson works with a network of volunteers and homeless shelters in cities around the country to organize the gatherings and transport guests on game day. Last year, more than 2,000 homeless men and women in 36 cities watched the Los Angeles Rams tame the Cincinnati Bengals. Kalmanson’s goal is to spread the celebrations to every state.
The parties have evolved from that first one. Homeless attendees now have access to new clothing and a barber, as well as mental health therapists and affordable housing organizations. Families are also welcome. Last year, during the halftime show featuring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, “everyone got up, and it turned into a big dance party,” says Kalmanson. In such carefree circumstances, he adds, “people are reminded who they are—and not the identity we place on them or how they label themselves.”
Ultimately, the Super Soul Parties are more than a sporting event. They’re opportunities to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless while making them feel a part of a larger community. And then there’s this. A Super Soul Party moment Kalmanson holds dear happened in 2020. A local news station came to an event in Oklahoma City and interviewed an older homeless man. That night, a young man watching the news recognized him as the father he hadn’t seen in years. They’ve since reconnected, and the older man met his grandchildren for the first time.
Helping others is not something new for Kalmanson. As a devout Jew, he grew up in a household that lived by the Golden Rule, “helping those in need, whether it was a meal or a place to stay,” he says. “It’s the most important thing in life: Be kind, be kind, be kind.”
Donate now to be a part of this event! https://causematch.com/supersoulparty