Rhino Charge host George Marinos recently sat down with Hanover Rhinos’ president and co-owner Chris Bunty to get an inside look at the preparations that take place for the Rhinos’ annual charity football game, the Santa Bowl.
George Marinos: I’m here with Hanover Rhinos president and co-owner Chris Bunty. Our team has the charity game, the Santa Bowl, coming up this weekend. How excited are you for this game?
Chris Bunty: We get very excited about the Santa Bowl because we know it’s the start of our season. The Santa Bowl is very special to our team because we get to help the local community raise toys for Toys for Tots.
GM: What all goes into the build up for the Santa Bowl for you and Adam Bostian as owners of the team?
CB: First off, we have tryouts in late September to see who is interested in playing in the spring. Next, we find a team who is interested in playing in our annual Santa Bowl for Toys for Tots. Then we book our field. We build up the excitement with our Stuff-A-Bus campaign in hoping to draw people to the Santa Bowl game. We added the Grocery Grab fundraiser this year, too. That drawing will be at halftime during the Santa Bowl.
GM: How many toys have been raised by the Hanover Rhinos this year?
CB: We collected 471 from Stuff-A-Bus, which was 1,021 last year. Collected 481 at drop-off locations so far, but this Friday is when the serious collecting gets done, and next week.
GM: Talk about what the Stuff-a-Bus program is for those fans that may not know.
CB: The Stuff-A-Bus campaign was started last year by the team. This was to help collect more toys to help the Adams County /Hanover Area program. We start the program on the first weekend of November, and end it on Black Friday weekend on Saturday.
GM: You go around to different locations for the Stuff-a-Bus program. What do team members do at each location?
CB: I talk to different Hanover Area businesses who would be interested in hosting the bus at their business. Most locations are 2-4 hours, tops, except on Black Friday weekend. The team members wait until people show up with toys. They collect them from people and put them into the box, and when box gets filled, they are bagged and put on the bus.
GM: How proud are you to connect with Toys for Tots and help bring smiles to the faces of many children in less fortunate situations?
CB: I am very happy to help put smiles on the children’s faces. I am one person trying to make a difference in the community I live in. If I can make them smile on Christmas morning, then I did my job.
GM: The team also has had donation boxes located at areas around town.
CB: The team helps with putting boxes around the Hanover Area and collecting the boxes and toys when the time comes. It takes commitment to do this task.
GM: About how many hours would you say the team commits to collecting toys during the lead up to the Santa Bowl?
CB: The Stuff-A-Bus alone was 29 hours, that’s just the 8 stops in November. Putting boxes out in the community is another 30 hours. Picking up toys, it can vary, because some boxes alone get filled up before pick up dates. I have been to Five Below two times now, and every time, it’s been 7 bags. In total 14 bags, which equals 351 toys, just from their location.
GM: You spent some early mornings with your son picking up collection bags. What did that mean to you?
CB: It makes me proud to show him that volunteering to help others is the greatest award, no matter who they are. He understands the value of never taking things for granted.
GM: All of the charitable work leads up to the game in early December. How do you find an opponent for the game?
CB: Adam and I ask other teams in our league, or outside our league, if they are interested. Usually, it’s the first team who gets back to us.
GM: Generally speaking, how many teams do you send out invitations to, and are these done online or through the mail?
CB: We send out to 2 or 3 teams to start with, through e-mail or through social media to the owner of the team.
GM: What’s the criteria for picking an opponent?
CB: There isn’t any opponent criteria. It’s about having a fun day to play football and collect toys for the kids.
GM: But why do you choose to send invitations to certain teams? Is there an effort to pick new and different teams that the Rhinos haven’t played?
CB: We try to get as many teams involved with our Santa Bowl as we can. Some, have other events they are doing, or others just can’t make it that year when asked.
GM: You’ve held a number of different positions for the Santa Bowls over the years. You’ve been photographer, general manager, player, and owner. Which did you have the most fun doing?
CB: To be honest George, all of them. I do like to take photos of the guys playing, and seeing how they turn out. I liked doing the general manager and owner role, because it’s nice to sit back and watch the things come together that you plan. Sometimes they don’t work out as you plan, but you work with it. As for playing, it was nice to get on the field that one year, but as you realize, this is for the younger guys.
GM: What’s the most stressful part of organizing the events?
CB: The most stressful part is hoping you didn’t forget anything. During the week of, I like to double-and triple-check myself.
GM: But at the end of the day, watching everything come together and making a difference in all those kids’ lives makes it all very rewarding?
CB: It’s very rewarding, no matter if everything works out to plan or not. We do this for the kids, to ensure they have a good Christmas morning.
GM: When did work begin on this year’s Santa Bowl?
CB: I start to think about the Santa Bowl when the year is over. So, for next year, I will start to think about it on January 1, 2017. Always try to plan ahead.
GM: How can people outside the Rhinos’ family assist with the Santa Bowl if they wish to do so?
CB: People can help by following the Toys for Tots of Adams County & Hanover PA, and follow the Hanover Rhinos Facebook pages. There are over 80-plus businesses in the Hanover Area that are drop-off locations this year. This is almost double from last year. (People) can assist by donating their time to sort, bag, and distribute toys on December 4th at the Gettysburg Times Building, from 12 PM- 4 PM, and Hanover VFW on December 11th, 10 AM – 2 PM.