Red kettles, bells and spare change. For over 120 years, the Salvation Army has made these items a staple of the holiday season. And for the past four years, the St. Louis Rams have taken part in the efforts.
On Tuesday, December 18, the Rams were stationed outside of the Des Peres Schnucks from sunup to sundown, ringing bells in support of the Salvation Army’s annual Tree of Lights Campaign. The team effort was part of the organization’s monthly Staff Days of Service Program. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., members of the organization – including players, cheerleaders and staff members – worked the red kettles, encouraging passersby to make a donation. The day resulted in the Rams helping to raise over $5,200 for the Tree of Lights Campaign.
“The Tree of Lights day of service is a partnership we began several years ago as a fun way to partner with the Salvation Army to benefit the community,” Molly Higgins, Rams’ vice president of corporate communications/civic affairs, said. “It is a great day of camaraderie for the staff, players and cheerleaders and has become a holiday tradition that we all look forward to.”
In addition to the standard bell ringing, the Rams had a strong support system for their fundraising day. Eight members of the Rams defense answered the bell, and rang it too, throughout the day. Headed by cornerback and event chair
“It was great to have one of our team leaders, Cortland, chair the effort and help recruit some of his teammates,” Higgins said. “The player turnout was exceptional and really helped with our fundraising efforts for the Salvation Army.”
In order to meet the players, fans and other customers were asked to make a donation to the Salvation Army. For their generosity, donors were rewarded with autographs and photo opportunities as well.
“This was a chance to meet the fans without the helmet on,” Finnegan said. “And you get to interact with them and cut up a little bit. That’s always my thing.”
Finnegan and crew took their promotional efforts from the doorway to the airwaves during the day. Onsite throughout the event was 101 ESPN. The radio station set up shop inside of Schnucks for their daily programs where Zach McCrite, the Bernie Miklasz Show and the Fast Lane all helped draw traffic to the site. Various Rams took turn serving as on-air guests with the different shows.
While the Rams were the highlight of the day at the Des Peres Schnucks, the efforts of the Tree of Lights Campaign are vast. It is the Salvation Army’s largest and most prominent fundraiser, bringing in over $100 million in communities nationwide. There are over 230 kettle locations in the St. Louis metropolitan area, the goal of which is to raise $6.5 million this holiday season. The national Tree of Lights Campaign enables the Salvation Army to provide food, toys and clothing to over 6 million people during the holidays, and helps more than 34 million Americans recovering from a variety of personal disasters nationwide. The Rams were happy to help in any way with the fundraiser.
“You definitely want to give back to the community,” Finnegan said. “Whether it be a smile, an autograph, a high-five or even just a joke. It’s one of those things that I love about St. Louis.”
Autographs and jokes aside, the Salvation Army was impressed with Finnegan and his teammates’ commitment.
“Think about that,” Major Lonneal Richardson, divisional commander of the Salvation Army said. “On their one day off, the players came out to help the Salvation Army raise money for the neediest in our community.”
And the impact of the entire Rams organization was felt due to the campaign.
“The help provided by the Rams was great,” Salvation Army communications director Will Becker said. “It was truly amazing to see the response we had from the public to make sure we were able to provide toys to kids for Christmas.”
For over 120 years, the Salvation Army has been providing for those in need around the country. Over the past four years, the Rams have been glad to be a part of the efforts. And both parties are looking forward to partnering in the future to continue serving the community.
"I'd like to thank the entire Rams organization for generously donating their time to The Salvation Army's Tree of Lights campaign," Richardson said. "Whether it was ringing bells, donating autographed memorabilia, or Christmas shopping with underprivileged youth, (the Rams’) efforts have helped to enrich the lives of those struggling in our community. We are extremely grateful for the partnership with the Rams and we look forward to teaming-up again for several years to come."