Kettle Challenge gets competitive

By WEEK Producer

December 1, 2012 Updated Dec 3, 2012 at 10:42 AM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- The Salvation Army's well known Red Kettle changed colors for a day. Saturday marked the annual Bears-Packers Kettle Challenge.

Two teams of bell ringers suited up at the Hy-Vee store in Peoria and Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria.

Rich Draeger loves the Packers. Kenny Baum backs the Bears. On most days, they're good friends but on Saturday, they went their separate ways.

"Originally this was a high school competition," explained Drager, an avid Packers fan and the assistant development director for the Salvation Army Heartland Division. "We had the area high school football teams ring bells and after a couple of years it kind of started to wane. And so, we thought it's a good idea but let's change it up and so we went to a Bears-Packers challenge in 1995 and its been that way ever since."

Once a year, The Salvation Army's trademark red kettle is replaced by one that is orange-and-blue, and one that is green-and-gold. Then bell ringers dressed for the part count on the loyalty of passersby to donate money to the kettle representing their team of preference.

But which fans are the most generous?

"I was standing over there just observing the Packers kettle and I noticed that there were more people going to the Bears kettle," said Baum, a Bears fan. "I'm not sure what that's about."

"It's always very close," said Draeger "As a matter of fact I think the last two years that the Bears won only $20 separated the two sides."

And no matter whose fans are the bigger spenders, the beauty of this off the field competition is that all of the money winds up scoring points for programs operated by the Heartland Division of The Salvation Army.

A year ago over $3,200 was raised. In a way, the Bears-Packers Kettle Challenge puts a personal touch on this season season of giving.

"They connect because they know what the Salvation Army does in the community, how we help people, clothe them, do all of those things," said Salvation Army Captain Allen Otto. "But there's an extra thing when they say I'm a Bears fan, or I'm a Packers fan, and I want to support my team as well as supporting the community."

This marks the 18th year of the Bears-Packers Kettle Challenge. The Packers fans have pushed their kettle to victory in 10 of the first 17.

That means Kenny Baum will have to cheer a little harder.