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Knights of Columbus fundraise with steak sandwich sales

| Friday, October 3, 2014

The white and blue banner that hangs from the double arches of the Knights of Columbus building at the intersection of South and God quads reads, “Home of Football Game Day Steak Sales $1,000,000 Since 1973.” Talk to any member of the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus, though, and they will tell you it’s about much more than the steak.

20141002, 2014-2015, 20141002, grillout, Knights of ColumbusPhoto courtesy of Notre Dame Knights of Columbus
“Notre Dame Knights are proud of their steak sale program, but more than the time spent on game days raising funds, the council enjoys working with some of the charities we support,” Robert Rauch, Notre Dame class of 2012 and former president of the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus, said.

“For instance, we annually conduct several events with the Corvilla Home, one of our first charities,” Rauch, who now works as the College Council Coordinator for the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office, said. “We have annually prepared and consumed a Thanksgiving dinner with residents, we have participated in bingo and bowling events, and we have sponsored a team in their Snowball Softball tournament. The best part of steak sales is being able to have a relationship with the people we support.”

According to the Notre Dame Knight of Columbus website, the steak sale began in 1973, but members of the Knights had been grilling steak sandwiches as part of their own tailgate since the late 1950s. Dennis Malloy, a third-year law student, said the location of the sale helped it take hold as a game day tradition.

“The location of the Council Home next to the old bookstore was a prime location with thousands of potential consumers,” Malloy said. “We decided to sell only steak sandwiches to provide a distinct treat to our customers and reap the benefits of economies of scale.

“Even though the bookstore moved and the glamour of Irish Green is far away, we are an essential part of the game day experience for many who make a special trip to the corner of God Quad and South Quad to visit us.”

Malloy, who is a former grand knight of Notre Dame’s branch of the Knights of Columbus, Council 1477, said the Notre Dame Knights have about 100 active members. Each football Saturday, Malloy said at least 15 people work the steak sale at any given time, and about 40 people, including Knights, their friends and family and members of other campus organizations, work the sale throughout the day.

Rauch said poor weather can lessen proceeds from the steak sale, but on a typical game day, the Knights will serve about 3,000 sandwiches and raise $10,000. As the sign outside the Knights of Columbus building highlights, the steak sales have raised over $1 million since 1973, a figure which Rauch said is not adjusted for inflation.

Sophomore Henry Dickman, who oversees the steak sale this year, said he hopes to involve more student groups in the unique fundraiser.

“Steak sales are not only significant in terms of the funds raised, but the event also provides a great way for council members to get to know each other and serve the Notre Dame community,” Dickman said. “Going forward, we’d like to find ways to get other campus groups involved with helping at the sales as well as attracting more students to buy sandwiches.”

Rauch said the tradition of the Knights of Columbus at Notre Dame extends much further than the steak sales. The Notre Dame Knights were founded in 1910 and were the first student group on campus aside from athletic teams, the marching band and student government.

“Like many things related to Notre Dame football, Knights of Columbus steak sales are rooted in tradition,” Rauch said. “The large stream of fans to the bookstore would smell the steak next door and would buy one on their way in or out. Plus, the steak sale program is all about charity and giving back — both themes that members of the Notre Dame family identify with.

“When Fr. Sorin said that Notre Dame would one day be an enormous force for good in this country, he was speaking of people like the Notre Dame Knights who through their steak sale program and all their other activities serves as this force by being a charity that evangelizes.”

Rauch said the sale can be taxing at times, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

“College students typically don’t enjoy waking up before 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, much less multiple Saturdays in a row, but that’s what the men of this council do every game day,” he said. “But when you have a good cause to support, you keep that in site and you keep going.”

Jeff Gerlomes, Notre Dame class of 2014 and former president of the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus, said while the steak sale serves as a favorite game day tradition, it also goes beyond the bounds of Notre Dame football to make a tangible impact on peoples’ lives.

“When we see that line down the quad, it’s humbling to think that this sandwich is as important to some of these people as a tartan cape or a golden helmet,” Gerlomes said. “Even more important, though, is that this fundraiser is our biggest opportunity to make a direct impact on some of the most serious social injustices around us. Instead of just campaigning for the poor and marginalized, we can aid programs that really help them on a lasting and personal level.”

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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