Neighbors are game for fun and charity

Annual Blackberry Creek Turkey Bowl collects more food each year
by Martha Quetsch
Elburn—For many people, a friendly backyard football game is standard Thanksgiving Day fare, as much as a turkey with trimmings. Thanks to several families in Blackberry Creek, that annual tradition helps others fill their tables during the holiday season.

The Blackberry Creek Charity Turkey Bowl has taken place every Thanksgiving since 2005. The event’s founders, Jeff Walter and Mark Wilson, started the event as a way to bring friends and neighbors together for a holiday game, and thought it also would provide a perfect opportunity to collect items for the Elburn Food Pantry.

They were right. People have been as enthusiastic about the food collection as they have been about the football game, with drop-offs and participation steadily increasing.

“The first year we had about 10 or 15 players, and now we’re able to field two teams,” said Walter, who is an Elburn trustee.

The players, and friends and family members who attend the touch football game, all bring canned goods and other nonperishable food items to the south Blackberry Creek playing field before the event, which starts at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

“I just open up the lift gate on my (SUV) and as people come they throw the stuff in,” Walter said.

Turkey Bowl participants and spectators the first year filled a box with donated food, and last year collected about 200 pounds of items including cases of vegetables, baked beans and soup.

“It’s gotten better every year,” said Walter, who takes the donated food to the Elburn Food Pantry after Thanksgiving.

The pantry, located at the Elburn & Countryside Community Center, relies on many sources for food donations to help keep its shelves full, from businesses and churches to organizations and community members like the Blackberry Creek Turkey Bowl group. After last year’s holiday season, pantry coordinator Rita Burnham said in a letter to the Elburn Herald editor that all of these groups are helping to meet the ever-increasing demand in the community for food assistance.

“There still is definitely an increase in the need,” Burnham said Wednesday. “Every food pantry says that, and we’re no different.”

Last Thursday, 69 people went to the food pantry to receive bags of food, compared to the 40 clients the pantry typically serves weekly, Burnham said.

“Our numbers have really increased; if we don’t have consistent food drives it will be difficult to provide what we do.”

4th annual Blackberry Creek Charity Turkey Bowl
8 a.m. Thanksgiving
Behind Blackberry Elementary School
Bring your neighbors, friends, relatives and families
Bring a canned or dried food item for the Elburn Pantry
For more info call:
Mark Wilson, (630) 461-8126, or
Jeff Walter, (630) 365-3707

Photo: Blackberry Creek Turkey Bowl players assemble on the south soccer field at 8 a.m. every Thanksgiving to take part in a touch football game, and to collect canned goods and other nonperishable edibles for the Elburn Food Pantry. The neighborhood group welcomes spectators and participants, as well as additional food donation.
Courtesy Photo