Twenty-eight years ago, local radio station Rock 102 began hosting a food drive every November to help feed residents in Western Massachusetts. What started as a small annual event benefiting Open Pantry Community Services in Springfield, became one of New England’s biggest food drives, the Mayflower Marathon.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame hosted the three-day, 52-hour charity drive in its parking lot, an easily accessible location right off Interstate 91. The lot provided space for people to drop off donations and for tractor-trailers to store non-perishable items. People drove in from all over New England to the event. Local and state politicians participated as well.
MGM Springfield Steps Up
However, in July, the Hall of Fame informed the food drive organizers that it would no longer be able to host the event. The venue cited the growth of tenants at the Hall of Fame, as well as inadequate parking.
“I’m not sure I understand the real justification for it,” Rock 102 radio host Mike Baxendale told WWLP 22 News, “because the Hall of Fame only has one new tenant right now and plenty of parking, including a garage below the Hall of Fame that is underutilized.”
When the Mayflower Marathon’s need for a new home became public, MGM Springfield began receiving calls and emails from employees suggesting that the casino should become the host. In early September, the radio station announced that MGM Springfield would be the event’s new home.
“We waited on pins and needles really hoping we’d be chosen and we were very happy when we were chosen,” casino spokesperson Beth Ward told MassLive.
This isn’t the first time the casino has stepped up in the community. In April 2020, when the MGM Springfield was closed for three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it donated portable sleeping cots and outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. The donations were meant to help the hospital manage patient overflow and assist the city in providing for the homeless population.
The casino’s downtown location near highway and the spacious parking garage meets all the needs for the food drive. A donation area will be set up at the in front of casino’s South End Market restaurant hall. Baxendale and his colleagues will begin a 52-hour broadcast publicizing the food drive beginning Nov. 21 at 6 a.m.
“In actuality, it is somewhat of an upgrade,” Baxendale said to MassLive. “People can park in the garage if they want to go to the casino and make a night of it. Everything we were hoping to accomplish, we get here.”
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