Soup Sunday: A Memphis Tradition

In the winter of 1990, Youth Villages’ supporters and the owners of some of the Mid-South’s best restaurants began to develop the idea of a fundraiser to help children with emotional and behavioral problems.

The original event organizers, Danny Sumrall and Mike Warr, brought the idea to Memphis from a similar event in Little Rock. After 20 years, thousands of gallons of soup, and almost a million dollars raised, Soup Sunday seems to have caught on.

The first Soup Sunday was held in February 1990 at Captain Bilbo’s in downtown Memphis. The inaugural event was an immediate success, drawing hundreds of participants. Before long, it was one of the area’s favorite events and was moved to the larger Woodland Hills in Cordova, TN. Event staples like the oreo-stacking contest, the Doctor’s Band, and of course, the area’s best soups made Soup Sunday one of the hottest tickets in town.

Starving for space, the event moved to the Pyramid in 2001. The Pyramid served as a great venue for 3 years and provided a great location to make a major addition to Soup Sunday, the VIP Souper Party, which was added in 2002.

With the addition of the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, the city got a brand new basketball arena called simply, FedEx Forum. Besides providing a top quality venue to watch concerts, professional and college sports, and other specialty events, FedEx Forum became the new home of Soup Sunday in 2004.

Many people have put in significant hours of service over the past 20 years. From the event founders, Danny and Mike, to Wight and the late Thomas Boggs, and on to Tom Cassidy, Elizabeth Cagle, and Libby Wyatt, the spirit of service has always been a part of Soup Sunday. In fact, Youth Villages CEO Pat Lawler noted at a recent Soup Sunday that “we have more volunteers helping us run Soup Sunday today than we had paying customers in the early years.”

This spirit of service if continued today as a new committee has taken over. We thank everyone who has volunteered for this event over the years. It could not have happened without you.