Cardinals vs. Rising? Valley pro teams compete to help fight hunger

(Video by Andrea Aguilera/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – They share a community and portions of a fan base, but Phoenix Rising FC and the Arizona Cardinals have never competed against each other between the lines.

Off the field is another story. Two of the Valley’s professional sports teams – the Rising of the United Soccer League and the NFL’s Cardinals – recently went head-to-head in charity food drives for the Valley.

When all was packed and sealed, the Rising had filled 5,025 emergency food bags, narrowly beating out the Cardinals. It was an ideal way for the Rising to stay active within the community after their successful regular season ended with a tough first-round playoff loss on Nov. 6.

The Rising recently hosted “Impact Day” at their home ground of Wild Horse Pass, collaborating with the State Forty Eight Foundation and United Food Bank to help fight hunger.

The State Forty Eight Foundation’s Impact Days are becoming a common occurrence within the community. Janice Vega, head of public relations and community outreach for the organization, said getting people together in times like these is imperative.

“We believe that the Rising have an amazing fandom around them and we wanted to really embrace the fans and bring them all back together,” Vega said. “We want to keep the excitement going around the team and the fans.”

The club frequently collaborates with community members and organizations to help bring awareness to areas of need in Arizona. Rising players Darnell King, James Musa and Aodhan Quinn were among the volunteers helping to pack and load enough bags to beat the Cardinals’ record of just over 5,000.

“It’s amazing to see everyone out here ready to help,” King said. “To still have the support and love from the fans and the community means so much to everyone that’s a part of the Phoenix Rising.”

Approximately 150 volunteers and fans did their part at Wild Horse Pass to help the important cause.

“We love to activate the community and get them involved, whether that be through fundraisers or volunteer events, we just want to empower people to do good,” Vega said. “The Rising are doing great things for the community and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”

The State Forty Eight Foundation and Phoenix Rising fans and volunteers put together over 5,000 emergency food bags for the United Food Bank. (Photo by Miles Aronson/Cronkite News)

Hunger is a national and state concern. Many families face that concern daily in Arizona where, according to the United Food Bank, one in four children struggle with hunger, while one in six people don’t have enough food to eat daily.

Just one bag that was put together during the Rising’s drive would feed a family of four for a week. The field was brimming with boxes on the outer rims and those boxes were quickly filled with emergency food bags for United Food Bank.

The Impact Day for the Phoenix Rising came just days after United Food Bank teamed up with the Arizona Cardinals for a canned food drive.

Volunteers who showed up to the Rising event had an incentive to beat the Cardinals by packing more emergency food bags, and they did.

The Rising packed 5,025 food bags to edge out the Cardinals.

The energy at Wild Horse Pass was just what the Rising wanted. United Food Bank volunteer Gary was excited to be at the event and helping a great cause.

“You meet such nice people down here too as far as everyone wanting to help out,” Gary said. “Everyone’s out here to help make a change and help those in need.”

“This event is really important because there are people out there that need food and help from the community,” Gary said. “Best thing to do is to give back.”

Although the Rising’s season ended early, they’re still hosting events for anyone who wants to get involved. Participants can still donate by visiting the United Food Bank’s website or by donating online here. Even the smallest donation makes a huge difference, for every one dollar that is donated helps provide five meals.

“It’s unfortunate that they lost early on but it’s still awesome to see them active even when the season is done,” Gary said. “What you do with your time says a lot about you and what you’re about.”

Numerous fans and volunteers were at Wild Horse Pass recently to assist at the assembly lines that were created to put together bags of food. (Photo by Miles Aronson/Cronkite News)

Miles Aronson Mi-les Air-uhn-suhn
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Miles Aronson expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Aronson is working for the Phoenix news and sports bureaus.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Andrea Aguilera expects to graduate in December 2021 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Aguilera, who has interned with MLB and iHeartMedia, is working in the Phoenix Sports Bureau and Cronkite Noticias.