- - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Most of the estimated $4.2 billion being waged on Super Bowl 50 will be illegal. You know the annual rituals: friendly workplace wagers, bets at your favorite sports watering hole and bets between rival teams’ mayors and governors.

Add to the list the head-to-head battle between two religious affiliates.

It’s a sure bet, it’s uber friendly, and it’s for a good cause.

It’s the Charity Bowl Challenge.

Pegged to Super Bowl 50, it’s an online fund-raising effort between Catholic Charities of Denver and Catholic Charities of Charlotte, but the outcome won’t be determined by the score of NFL championship game. The charities hope to raise $50,000 each by the end of the Super Bowl on Sunday night, and the winner will be the charity that receives the most donations.

Donations can be made and tracked online at CharityBowl50 and through social media with the hashtag #CharityBowl50.

You can be a Broncos, AFC or Peyton Manning fan and still donate to the Charlotte group, and you can be a lover of the Panthers, NFC and Cam Newton and place a “wager” on Denver. Hey, you can even do both.

Catholic Charities has a long history of coming to the aid of the least and the lost, and these organizations are there not only on a daily basis, but also when disaster strikes, when you need a guiding hand and when the dollars and sense of life don’t seem to be adding up in your favor. The Gabriel Project in Denver, as but one example, helps men, pregnant women and needy families. In North Carolina, two examples are its food pantries to help nourish the hungry and its clothing closets that are stocked to clothe even the tiniest of souls.

“Through Charity Bowl 50, Denver football fans have a real opportunity to show they have the best team spirit and a passion for serving others,” said Denver Catholic Charities CEO Larry Smith. “This challenge is a true win for both Denver and Charlotte, but there’s no doubt we will seize the victory.”

Said Catholic Charities of Charlotte CEO Gerry Carter: “It’s a worthy cause that will have a major impact on the lives of the poor and needy in each of our communities. All of our team’s fans and Catholic Charities in the Carolinas look forward to this challenge, and the inevitable victory that will be ours.”

Here’s the fun thing: The CEO of the losing charity will dress in the opposing team’s colors and send congratulatory messages to the winning team. The victors, mocking the NFL’s Gatorade dump, will also hold a celebration where the winning charity’s CEO endures a cold sports-drink dump.

People who gamble more than they can afford need helping hands, too.

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