By – Andy Shultz
The sun was bright, but the air was crisp the morning of the 42nd Annual Fiesta Bowl Parade.
Ramey RJ Peru experienced the parade in style riding in the back of a Ford Mustang Convertible as the 2011-12 Fiesta Bowl Committee Member of the Year, with his nephew, Carson, and niece, Avery.
Walking beside them for the two-mile journey through downtown Phoenix was Fiesta Bowl Life Director Ramey G. Peru, his father. On this day, the elder Peru would be simply known as a proud father and grandfather joining his family for a memorable day.
“Since the kids were young, my sister (Rene) made sure I had snacks for them and my dad decided to walk next to the car in case the kids needed something,” said the younger Peru. “Carson was so happy the entire time waving at everyone. It was a great day.”
Volunteering for the Fiesta Bowl and giving back to the Arizona community as a family has been the foundation of the Peru family’s commitment of service. As native Arizonans, they understood the Fiesta Bowl history, its impact in our state and the college football landscape.
They experienced the excitement first-hand when they attended the 1987 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, featuring top-ranked Miami and second-ranked Penn State at Sun Devil Stadium. A late fourth quarter interception by Penn State linebacker Pete Giftopoulos sealed the 14-10 Nittany Lion victory and its second national title in five years.
“Wow, what a game,” said Peru (father). “The energy was unbelievable. It got me thinking about getting involved in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I approached Nick Balich (my mentor and friend) who was on the Fiesta Bowl Committee, and he suggested that I volunteer.”
After volunteering for a couple years, Peru (father) became a member of the first Fiesta Bowl Futures Committee class. It was a two-year commitment with the goal of earning your Yellow Jacket at the end of the program.
“We had a great team and I made some life-long friendships, such as Chuck O’Connor, who became my trusted investment advisor,” said Peru (father).
Throughout his tenure on the Fiesta Bowl Committee, Peru (father) has had the opportunity to be part of many great committees and events. However, there is one that will always be his favorite.
“I have always been partial to the old 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament,” said Peru (father). “It was a high energy event with participants of all ages.”
It was also during this time that a younger Peru (son) started learning about the Fiesta Bowl, the importance of giving back to the community and the realization he would like to be part of the committee when he was older.
“The 3-on-3 (basketball tournament) was my favorite event,” said Peru (son). “I enjoyed watching my dad being a court monitor where some of those games could get very competitive and rough.
“Growing up watching my dad volunteer, it was always a goal of mine to be part of the Fiesta Bowl organization. Seeing him in his Yellow Jacket and the friendships he made, I learned at an early age that this was more than a football game. It was a year-round organization that gave back to the community.”
The dream became a reality when Peru (son) joined the Fiesta Bowl Committee in 2010. During his time as a Yellow Jacket, he served in various leaderships roles which included being a team liaison and chairing the (former) Hole-in-One (HIO) Event at the Arizona Biltmore.
Little did the younger Peru know that approximately two years later he would meet a new committee member who would change his life forever and possibly continue the Peru family legacy in the Fiesta Bowl.
Kelly Lenhart Peru was a successful civil engineer who was looking for an organization where she could give back to community. Her previous company, Dibble Engineering has been a long-time supporter of the Bowl and provided its employees opportunities to attend the annual game.
“I was looking to volunteer for an organization that was outside of engineering,” said Lenhart Peru. “I met someone who indicated the Fiesta Bowl would be a good organization to join.”
Lenhart Peru joined the committee in 2013 and enjoyed success working at various events that included the Aerospace Challenge and VIP check-in on game day. She was named the George Leonard Fiesta Bowl Rookie of the Year and was also featured in a convertible during the 2014 Fiesta Bowl Parade.
It was early in her involvement with the Fiesta Bowl when she met Peru (son). They discovered they were both passionate about the organization and giving back to the community.
When the couple married in 2016, their Yellow Jackets made an appearance for a special photo. They now have two children, Canaan and Emery. They both agree the best part of the Fiesta Bowl is that they can now share this experience with their children.
“Meeting Ramey (son) has been the best part of the committee,” said Lenhart Peru. “We can now experience the Fiesta Bowl with our children. Since we had an opportunity to be part of the Parade several years ago, it was great to be there with our family waving to everyone who was in it.
“Team arrivals have also been a great experience with the kiddos. Since Ramey (son) has been a team liaison, we will always make sure we are at the airport to greet his team. Canaan loves airplanes and he gets to see one up close.”
On the third Sunday of June, we take a moment to say thank you and recognize our fathers for the contributions they made in our lives. Ramey G. Peru (father) started a tradition that his son Ramey RJ Peru can share with his family and children for years to come.
“It is rewarding to have been part of the Fiesta Bowl’s past, and today see that someone from your family is part of the present and likely to be part of its future,” said Peru (father).
Happy Father’s Day!