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Churches throw down Bama-Clemson challenge to raise funds for children

Two churches in Alabama and South Carolina have thrown down a challenge to see who can raise the most money for children’s homes in their home states as the Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers face off in the college football National Championship game on Monday night.

“We came up with the idea to do a Bama-Clemson Challenge,” said the Rev. Buz Wilcoxon, senior pastor of Spring Hill Presbyterian Church in Mobile since 2013 and a fan of the Crimson Tide.

Wilcoxon said it reflects well on Christians that the high-profile quarterbacks on both teams, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts for Alabama and Trevor Lawrence for Clemson, are eloquent spokesmen for their faith.

“That’s good to see the way they’re representing themselves and our Christian faith tradition,” Wilcoxon said. “They are humble team players.”

From 2008-2013, Wilcoxon was on the staff of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., which called him this week with the idea of a fundraiser for a good cause tied to the Bama-Clemson game.

They challenged each other to see who could raise more money for the Presbyterian Children’s homes in Alabama and South Carolina, both of which were founded after the Civil War to take in war orphans.

The children’s homes have a broader mission now that includes caring for homeless mothers and children.

Both churches set up fundraisers on their Facebook pages, allowing people to pledge donations.

One twist is that the Rev. Anna Fulmer Duke, associate pastor the past four years at Spring Hill Presbyterian, is a Clemson fan from South Carolina and she’s rooting and raising money for Team Clemson.

The challenge went up Wednesday and by Friday Team Bama had pledged $910, but Team Clemson had pledged $775 on the Spring Hill Presbyterian Facebook page, all going towards the Presbyterian Children’s Home in Talladega. Fourth Presbyterian in Greenville is raising money for Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton, S.C.

“Maybe it’s Bama haters, not active Clemson fans,” Wilcoxon said of Duke’s strategy.

Duke has been openly rallying Bama haters to donate to Team Clemson.

“Any team who opposes Alabama, we’ll take your money,” Duke joked. “Any team who has lost to Alabama this year, please donate to us.”

She said if Team Clemson raises more money, she’ll get to dump orange Gatorade on her senior pastor. If Team Bama raises more, he’ll get to dump red Gatorade on her.

“I grew up going to Clemson football games; we had season tickets,” said Duke, who graduated from Clemson in 2009.

“It’s a great school,” she said. “I’ve always been a Clemson fan. As soon as I moved down here this competition between Alabama and Clemson erupted. Year after year it’s kept going. The orange runs deep in our family. The blood runs orange.”

One of the donors was a man who grew up at the children’s home in Alabama, and whose father grew up at the children’s home in South Carolina, Wilcoxon said.

All money raised goes directly to the children’s homes, Wilcoxon said.

Wilcoxon attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., which is across the street from the children’s home, he said. The college was founded to serve children who had grown up in the children’s home and wanted to attend college.

“Both children’s homes are near and dear to our hearts,” Wilcoxon said. “For us, this is a chance to emphasize the importance of not just faithful words, but faithful actions for some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

Duke said the fundraiser will make it worthwhile whichever team wins.

“I’m happy to have Gatorade dumped on me for the Presbyterian Home for Children,” she said.

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