A chance encounter with a homeless man prompted social media personality Meir Kalmanson to throw a Super Bowl watch party three years ago for the homeless.
This weekend, the vlogger known as Meir Kay is hosting at least 20 such parties across the country with the help of volunteers and donors, he said.
Free food and camaraderie will be offered at a time when homelessness has risen nationwide, especially on the West Coast.
“Ultimately, the mission of the Super Bowl party is less about the party,” Kalmanson said. “It is just the stage for human beings to come together, put … aside our differences, our struggles or challenges, and connect on a human level to show love, compassion.”
He made a personal connection
Around the Super Bowl in 2017, a young man caught Kalmanson’s attention as he was walking around New York, he recalled.
“He was holding a cardboard sign and on it said, ‘I don’t want anything to eat. I don’t want to drink. All I want is to be seen. I want to talk to somebody,”‘ Kalmanson said. “That just hit me in the gut.”
Kalmanson went to a bodega, grabbed some food for the man and sat down with him to listen, the internet personality said.
“We connected. … I know what it means to feel alone in this world,” explained Kalmanson, who moved around a lot as a child.
At times ignored and bullied as a young Jewish boy, Kalmanson has always tried to make sure others don’t feel that way, he said. So he brainstormed what he could do to help that man and others.
The Super Bowl came to mind.
“Super Bowl is this unofficial holiday in the US,” Kalmanson said. “There’s all this stuff going on for those who are experiencing homelessness around Christmas and Thanksgiving but nothing for the Super Bowl.”
“So, I figured, it’s a good time to jump in and try to connect the people who may feel a bit more lonely than usual.”
Kalmanson met six or so homeless men living on the streets in New York, he said. He bought them football jerseys and took them to a friend’s party at a rooftop bar.
“We had our first Super Bowl party, which was soon to be a Super Soul Party,” he recalled. “It was unbelievable.”
Of course, everyone enjoyed the game and free food, but the unexpected deeper human connection is what stood out.
“Yes, we had different circumstances that took us to different places, but putting that all aside, we’re just humans,” Kalmanson explained. “Seeing how that one little party, those few hours, transformed them was truly life-changing.”
His video inspired a movement
The 30-year-old is all about people getting out of their comfort zone and putting kindness into action. He’s done quite a few feel-good stunts, including his popular High Five New York video.
But his video on the Super Bowl party experience started a movement. Volunteers reached out from all over the country, wanting to get involved.
For the last two years, Super Soul Party has reached Los Angeles with enhanced experiences, including clothing drives, free hygiene kits, haircuts, manicures and on-site therapists. About 100 people attended last year’s New York event.
“We plan the parties out so that there are an equal number of people who are experiencing homelessness and people who aren’t experiencing homelessness,” he said. “This way, people can connect on a one-to-one basis, and they can have a close, intimate conversations.”
“We want everybody to feel that they’re being seen.”
Kalmanson also started the nonprofit Super Soul Party, and he is partnering this year with homeless shelters and individuals in at least 15 cities across the country to host events around Sunday night’s matchup.
“I want people to connect,” he said, “and to see that they’re not alone.”
To find out how you can volunteer or donate to a local Super Soul Party, click here.