Wiedmer: Chattanooga-area volunteers needed to make BlueCross Bowl at Finley special

Contributed photo / BlueCross Bowl logo tile
photo Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Finley Stadium will host the TSSAA's nine BlueCross Bowl football state title games on Dec. 2-4, and local volunteers are needed to help Chattanooga Sports run the event.

For more BlueCross Bowl coverage from the Times Free Press, read more here.

Tim Morgan needs your help. Actually, the nine BlueCross Bowl games that will be played Dec. 2-4 at Finley Stadium to crown TSSAA football state champions need your help.

But because Morgan is head of Chattanooga Sports, which will run the three-day event along with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, he's reaching out to our community for volunteers. Chattanooga Sports is even willing to pay clubs, schools - pretty much any nonprofit organization with a 501(c)3 tax-exempt designation - to help work the games through its Chattanooga Champion Volunteer Group Grant Program.

And who couldn't use a little extra cash this time of year, especially when you can earn it by helping others?

"We're in much better shape than we were a few days ago," Morgan said Friday. "But the one consistent that's always in need for events like this is volunteers."

The grant program was introduced to lend a helping hand to school groups and nonprofits that often struggle to make ends meet, and never more so than during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

Here's how it works: Have your group volunteer for any Chattanooga Sports event - be it the BlueCross Bowl, the Chattanooga Marathon, the Ironman competitions, anything.

Once you've fulfilled your obligation, your organization will receive a grant based on the number of volunteers who participated, the number of hours they worked and the scope of work provided to the event. Morgan said grants can range from $250 to $2,500 per group, depending upon the criteria outlined above.

To receive the grant money, a W-9 form is needed for your group.

"We need volunteers, and these school groups and organizations need revenue," Morgan said. "We're helping each other."

photo Staff photo / McCallie football players hold their state championship trophy after beating Montgomery Bell Academy to win the TSSAA Division II-AAA title on Dec. 5, 2019, at Tennessee Tech. The BlueCross Bowl state championship event is moving from Cookeville to Chattanooga this year, and McCallie will be going for its third straight title when it faces MBA at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Finley Stadium.

Both sides are helping the Chattanooga economy. Chattanooga Sports - a division of the Chattanooga Tourism Co. - estimates the BlueCross Bowl will bring an estimated $3 million to the city's economy. Perhaps more impressive is the roughly $100 million its 90 events have generated for the Scenic City the past year.

So what tasks can your school or group assist the TSSAA and Chattanooga Sports with to make these BlueCross Bowl state championship games the best ever?

There's a pregame experience in the New Horizon Pavilion to man. There's coach and media hospitality. You can be a team ambassador at the Chattanooga Convention Center or a ticket taker and gate operator at Finley Stadium.

And beyond the grants for your group, each individual volunteer receives a Chattanooga Champion volunteer T-shirt, free parking and admission to the championship game day they volunteer to work. All those interested should email Chattanooga Sports at volunteer@chattanoogasports.com.

"We started these grants in hopes that we could help a middle school basketball team take a road trip they couldn't take otherwise, or maybe buy equipment or new uniforms, things like that," Morgan said. "So many of these schools need help right now."

He also has little doubt his pleas for volunteers will generate a huge surplus of helpers by the time the BlueCross Bowl's first game kicks off on Thursday, Dec. 2. That day's lineup is already set with the Division II semifinals completed this past Friday night, and undefeated McCallie will be going for its third straight DII-AAA title when it faces Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy in the third and final game of the day.

"That phrase 'Southern hospitality' is played out throughout the South," Morgan said. "But when it comes from the athletes and visitors themselves, it means a little more. We hear all the time how nice people are here, how great the hospitality is.

"That intangible is the culture here. It's organic. It's instilled in the people who live here, and that goes a long, long way in making events like the Ironman or the Head of the Hooch the successes they've been. Our community is just known throughout the country for having wonderful volunteers at these events."

And if Morgan gets the response he expects from the Scenic City regarding his request for more volunteers, that type of praise should again rain down on our town from the 18 high school football teams and their supporters who hope to have a championship experience while they chase their state championship dreams.

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.