The Green Bay Packers have the Lambeau Leap and the Pittsburgh Steelers have the Terrible Towel. The Salvation Army may have to come up with a nickname for Ezekiel Elliott’s vault into the giant Red Kettle during last night’s nationally televised Sunday Night Football game.
He didn’t spike the football but donations spiked upward.
Online donations to The Salvation Army were up 61 percent compared to the previous Sunday night, as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern today, according to Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, national secretary for community relations and development. The surge meant an additional almost $182,000 in contributions arrived online between 9 p.m. Sunday and 10:30 a.m. today, he said.
The boost comes at a time with The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign is down about 16 percent nationally, as of Friday, Busroe said, likely the result of bad weather. Online donations for the year are up about 11 percent, he said.
Last year’s Red Kettle campaign totaled $149.6 million, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. Online donations were up 7.5 percent, totaling $34 million, or about one-fifth of the total.
The Dallas Cowboys have been a partner with The Salvation Army for 20 years, hosting the Red Kettle Kickoff during the annual Thanksgiving Day game and raising more than $2.1 billion in that time.
Elliott set a team rookie record with his 13th touchdown of the season during the Cowboys’ 26-20 win over Tampa Bay. He then playfully hopped into the red kettle that was set up behind the end zone, with cameras still following his moves. The act drew a penalty for excessive celebration, which typically brings with it a fine. Via Twitter, Elliott initially said he would match any fine with a donation to The Salvation Army but a National Football League (NFL) spokesman Tweeted today that the star rookie would not be fined. Elliott later Tweeted that he will still make a donation.
While some people took to Twitter to pledge a $21 donation in honor of Elliott (his jersey number), Busroe said the average gift has been significantly more than $21. Typically, an online gift to Salvation Army is about $200, he said.
The Salvation Army was trending on Twitter last night and Busroe said all of his Google Alerts today were primarily about that story. “It’s still out there. It’s huge,” he said, estimating some half-dozen interviews he’d done today.
Elliott’s leap wasn’t planned or the start of some campaign. “None of us knew he as going to do this. What he did was use his celebrity to raise awareness of the work of The Salvation Army,” Busroe said but they are looking at some options to piggyback off the attention.
Busroe credited the Jones family, owners of the Cowboys, for creating a culture of helping young men understand their role in giving back to the community. He said the week before Thanksgiving, Elliott and other rookies were at a Salvation Army feeding program in Fort Worth, serving meals to the homeless.