Pizza 4 Patriots program delivers pies to troops for Super Bowl
For Sgt. Mark Evans, it was the perfect Super Bowl Sunday. And the football game wasn’t bad either.
The day marked another picture-perfect celebration of the Pizza 4 Patriots program Evans founded nearly nine years ago with his son, incorporating Super Bowl Sunday as one of its biggest annual events two years later.
“It was one fantastic miracle after another,” Evans told the North Cook News of a day that saw more than 800 pizzas delivered to Army bases as far away as Afghanistan and Kabul. “Every year, we set out to make the days our country celebrates the freedom that they continue to fight for bigger and better.”
Evans noted that Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day are also among their biggest celebrations.
“These are the times we want to provide our heroes with America’s favorite food while they are far away from home and loved ones," he said.
The pizzas are supplied by the world-famous Uno’s of Chicago. Sunday’s goal included a mission of gifting deep-dish pizzas to at least one VA hospital in all 50 states.
“We know we had that happen in at least 35 states,” Evans said less than 24 hours after the New England Patriots rallied to stun the Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28 in one of the most memorable battles in Super Bowl history.
As for the goals abroad, Evans said it mostly went off without a hitch, except perhaps in a few areas where inclement weather hampered the process. Not wanting any soldier to feel left out, Evans is already making plans for a second delivery over the next few days to those affected areas as part of a "Super Bowl 2" humanitarian effort.
As it stands, that’s a lot of ground covered for an idea that started from Evans and his teenage son just wanting to show their gratitude and support to all the troops.
“We were watching TV, eating pizza and they were showing footage from one of the war areas, and he wondered out loud if the troops had pizza like that they could get to,” he said.
After the 26-year Air Force National Guard veteran explained to his son how most soldiers in war zones are forced to survive on boxed MREs for months at a time, the mission between the two became how to get them all a slice or two.
“From there, I emailed General (David) Petraeus, and within 12 hours he had responded on what a great idea it was,” Evans said. “We’ve been going strong ever since.”
According to Evans, Emirates Airlines handles making the long-distance deliveries possible, with the help of EMA Cargo. The rest is all about planning and Evans' ensuring the pizzas are ready to go.
Pizza 4 Patriots now holds the Guinness World Record for biggest pizza party for one organization, with 30,000 pizzas being shipped across the globe to troops at one time. To date, the nonprofit organization has shipped over 160,000 pizzas, feeding over 650,000 soldiers and veterans around the world.
Evans doesn’t see that trend changing anytime soon.
“How do you stop one miracle from growing into a bigger miracle?” he said. “Every year, this gets bigger and better.”
Every now and then, Evans gets a sign of just how much what he’s doing means to those who inspired him to do it in the first place.
“Sometimes, I still run into guys from the military who were in Afghanistan,” he said. “And the first thing I ask them is, ‘Did you get the pizza?’”