Only months after moving to Phoenix from Indianapolis in 2015, Nicole Barrington found herself fully engaged in the Fiesta Bowl’s hallmark community service and volunteerism.
“I was looking for a way to get involved in the community,” Barrington says. “So, in January 2016 the national championship game was here, and I volunteered to be a VIP driver for some of the folks who were in town for the game.”
Along the way, she got to know Lourdes D’Sylva of the Fiesta Bowl Ambassadors, the women’s organization that works all year to provide hospitality, leadership and community service for both the Cheez-It Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
“We were just kind of chit-chatting, and she said that the Ambassadors might be a good fit for me,” Barrington says.
She joined the Ambassadors that spring, and now, just three years later, she is being honored as Ambassador of the Year for her dedication and service to the organization.
“She is the type of woman who is always positive, always willing to go the extra mile,” said fellow Ambassador Sooz Rudolph. “She always says yes and she has an amazing ability to get the job done. She’s definitely the poster child for being an ambassador and what it’s all about.”
This past year, Barrington was Ambassadors’ chair for the Fiesta Bowl-sanctioned Par-3 Challenge and the Youth Football Clinic. She also was Guest Services chair while serving on the Game Operations Committee for both the Cheez-It and Fiesta Bowls.
“I really enjoy both of the bowl games, and I enjoy being involved in the operations side of things where all the planning and logistics take place leading up to and during the games,” she says. “But then I really, really enjoy just the level of excitement that the Fiesta Bowl organization brings to the Phoenix area and the whole state of Arizona.”
Her volunteer duties fit right in with how she makes a living, too. As director of events for a Chicago-based software company, event planning, logistics and hospitality are all part of her responsibilities.
And she’s an unabashed college football fan. In fact, the first Fiesta Bowl event she ever attended was the 2002-03 National Championship game that Ohio State won over Miami. She and her husband came in from North Carolina, where they were living at the time.
“Little did I know in ’02 that I’d be working with the organization that puts on the game,” she said.
Her love of sports goes back to her childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her father went to Purdue University and her mother went to Indiana University.
“I grew up in a Big Ten household, and we had season tickets for both Purdue basketball and football growing up, and we attended events at IU,” said Barrington.
Indianapolis also was the site of the now-defunct Indianapolis-Scarborough Peace Games, an amateur athletic competition begun in 1972 to promote friendships between the people of Indianapolis and Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Barrington’s family hosted athletes from Scarborough in the alternate years the games took place in Indianapolis.
“That was something that really resonated with me,” she says. “I enjoyed learning about them and meeting them and going to their wrestling matches. That, paired with my family’s interest in going to sporting events, whet my appetite for this sort of community involvement.”
Looking ahead, she plans to continue her work with the Fiesta Bowl. She feels strongly that people should look outside their immediate surroundings to expand and share their experiences.
“The Fiesta Bowl at large and the Ambassadors specifically give me an opportunity to be able to share my time and my talent,” Barrington says. “The Fiesta Bowl is such a fantastic organization and provides a lot of good within the state of Arizona. The level of charitable support that they provide across the state is critically important.”