by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Super Bowl has long attracted crowds of pigskin and beer lovers to sports bars around the country, so it should come as no surprise that a number of Capitol Hill Gay bars broadcast the game. But for local events planner Art Ruiz and the Emerald City Softball Association (ECSA) officials, the Super Bowl served as a catapult for bringing together members of the LGBT community for two fundraisers - one of which benefited the people of Haiti with a clothing drive, while the other raised money for the ECSA's North SeaTac playfields - while having fun at the same time.
"Gay sports are big in Seattle," Ruiz told SGN, "and there's no bigger game than the Super Bowl. With such an interest in the game, we created THE BIG GAME as a way to help out the Haitians and raise much-needed funds to improve our playfield."
Ruiz told SGN that he organized THE BIG GAME around fundraisers for Haiti because "I didn't want people to forget that they still need help." He came up with a used clothing drive where each guest was asked to donate clothes for the cause, which entered them in a raffle ticket drawing for a one-night hotel stay in Chicago or New York or concert tickets to The Black Eyed Peas, to name a few of the prizes. Helping Ruiz and the ECSA was Howard Russell, an ECSA member also known as Lady Chablis, host of "Lashes Cabaret" at R Place.
Ruiz, an active member of ECSA and team manager of the Seattle Squadron, said that partnering with R Place turned out to be a great thing because "the bar management and staff really got behind the project."
In addition to decorating the three-story nightclub and bar into Super Bowl XLIV central, Ruiz says the owners added four new flatscreen TVs for the event, ensuring that no matter where you were inside the club, you got a good view of the game. The bar supplied hotdogs, chili, and nachos for the ECSA food sale.
By the end of the game, the event was a huge success. Over 200 people had brought clothes, raised money, and came together as a Queer community to enjoy each other's company. When all was said and done, Ruiz had collected over 50 bags of clothes and the ECSA was one step closer to adding important safety features to their playfields.
"THE BIG GAME was a success and a testament to what our community can accomplish when we all get together," Ruiz told SGN.
Ruiz says that the clothing drive was particularly special to him because "it meant more than just giving money." Parting with clothes for a specific cause is something that you have to put some thought into, he said. "It's easy for someone to just drop some pocket change into a donation jar," said Ruiz, "but this clothing drive added a personal touch."
For Ruiz, Russell, the ECSA and R Place management, THE BIG GAME was an event that they can be proud of. The night went off without a hitch and the sense of community and caring was apparent as the fundraising goals were exceeded beyond all expectations.
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