Saturday, December 7, 2019

Souper Bowl: Sip Some Soup for Charity


By Lisa Meurgue | Lisa Meurgue (L) with her husband Denis Meurgue (R) at the 2019 Souper Bowl. Photo submitted by Lisa Meurgue.

Every year, there comes a time in February where hundreds of people unite for one special event. It can get loud, it can even get messy, but in the end, fun is had by all and something amazing is achieved. No, I’m not talking about the event where a bunch of bulky men toss a ball covered in pigskin. I’m talking about the one that involves the community, soup, and education. That event is known as the Souper Bowl.

In just three months, the 8th annual Souper Bowl will begin here on Marco Island. As the name suggests, the Souper Bowl is an event that takes place the day before the big football event. However, it’s not some kind of frat party or promotion for the game. In actuality, the Souper Bowl is an opportunity created by Desiree Buhelos who wanted a way to give back to the people of Marco Island that had given her so much. With the help of the local restaurants and the Chamber of Commerce, she found a way. 

During the Souper Bowl, a total of 10 restaurants will arrive with a soup of their creation to raise money for charity. Residents can make a donation through purchasing a personalized bowl and use it for said event to enjoy the soup provided. All the money earned goes to fund scholarships for students in financial need. 

When it comes to an event like this, there are two necessary ingredients to make it happen—and that’s the Soup and the Bowls. I was recently given the privilege to speak with three important individuals behind the event and ensuring both necessities are covered. There’s Lisa Meurgue, the owner of Bistro Soleil and Petit Soleil, the one in charge of organizing the restaurants for the Souper Bowl and the first important ingredient: The Soup. And then there’s Dianna Dohm and Donna Niemczyk, both important figures in the Chamber of Commerce and the ones in charge of coordinating the event, including the second most important ingredient: The Bowls.

Lisa Meurgue sees the Souper Bowl as a way to “give back to this community that has supported us and our restaurants.” Over 10 restaurants will be supplying the event with soup of their creation, and it’s Meurgue’s responsibility to keep all of them organized and prepared for the event—and most importantly, make sure each restaurant prepares their own separate soup. The last thing anyone wants is ten booths with the same soup. Although, I’m certain the big question on everyone’s mind is what restaurants will be catering the event and just what kind of soup will they be serving? Well, that’s a question that will have to wait until the next article.

As for coordinating the Souper Bowl, there are various requirements that Dianna Dohm and Donna Niemczyk have to oversee. Locating the right sponsors, advertising the event, organizing everything, and most of all, preparing the bowls. For something this big, Dianna and Donna have had to acquire a grand total of over 800 bowls! Each one was handcrafted by students from our local schools such as Tommie Barfield Elementary School, Lely High School, Marco Island Academy, the Charter Middle School, even Parks and Recreations lent a hand.

By Matthew Mendisana | Donna Niemczyk (L) and Dianna Dohm (R) both holding unglazed bowls that will be on sale at this year’s Souper Bowl.

Each bowl is molded and painted by a different student and collected to be glazed and fired. Then, on the day of the event, people can pick out their own bowl to purchase for only $15, and then they’re free to taste the soup. Some of the local artists are also chipping in with bowls of their own design—though their bowls will be sold at a silent auction. And for every bowl that’s purchased, that money goes to help a student pay for college. I believe Dianna Dohm put it best, “Of all the events that we participate in through the year, to me this is the one event that brings together the children of the island, the businesses of the island, and the community. All for a cause that is so important. And that’s scholarships.”

Should all 800 bowls be sold and there are still lines of people, there’s no need for fear. Attendants can still give a donation to the cause and enjoy the soup—it’ll just be out of a Styrofoam bowl. So, I suggest you hurry, because it’s first come first served, and there are a lot of people coming. As Donna Niemczyk aptly stated, “There’s a lot of people passionate about this. It’s something parents can do with their kids.”

The next Souper Bowl will begin at 11 AM on February 1st, 2020. The event will be held in Mackle Park out on 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island. However, if you want to get a head start and purchase your own bowl ahead of time, then head on over to Mackle Park on January 31st, between 3 PM and 6 PM, to pre-purchase a bowl—though the price starts at $20. No matter how you plan on attending, you can expect Lisa Meurgue and her husband, Chef Denis Meurgue, to be at the event, as well as Dianna and Donna. If you see either, make sure to thank them for making this all possible. Just make sure your mouth isn’t full.

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