About 100 sixth-grade students from Canal Winchester Middle School will fan out throughout the city May 25 and 26 for this year's Brock Walk, hoping to collect more than 14,000 items for the local food pantry.
The first foray into the community May 25 will be to leave flyers about the project and empty grocery bags on doorknobs of homes.
The students from sixth-grade classes taught by Danielle Bartos, Kelly Best, Tori Begeny and Greta Bryant will return the next day to pick up the filled bags.
It's all part of a lesson in what it means to help others and to honor Brock Johnson, a middle school student who died in 2015 after a lengthy battle with an autoimmune disease.
"Because Brock loved his town, we knew this was the perfect project to name after him," Best said. "We had a rather generic name the first year in 2015 -- the CWMS Pantry Project -- but after Brock passed, we knew this would have been a project he would have loved, so we wanted to honor him by including his name."
Since Brock's favorite number was 11, the goal last year was to collect 11,000 items.
"Our total last year ended up being a little over 13,000. This year, we increased our goal by 11 percent -- another tribute to Brock -- and our goal is 14,430," Best said.
During the school year, students have been learning about the work of Canal Winchester Human Services and the Brockstrong Foundation. On Wednesday, May 24, they will visit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to learn how it serves the community.
Canal Winchester Human Services Director Penny Miller said the Brock Walk is "paramount" to keeping food on the shelves for families during the summer, when some students don't get enough to eat because they don't have access to breakfast and lunch at school.
Last summer, she said, more than 623 families, or 1,492 people, received 22,380 meals -- a total of almost 35,000 pounds of food.
To support the food drive, Best said, students have helped with Football for Food, held bake sales, created and sold Brock Walk T-shirts and recently sold "I Am Brockstrong" lanyards.
Dylan Henkel, 12, said he and his classmates are excited to participate in the Brock Walk.
"We hope to gain the importance of teamwork and what it means to help people in our community," Dylan said.
"We expect to put out about 3,000 bags this year," Best said.
In addition to collecting food in the neighborhoods, the students are collecting items from their classmates and at each of the school buildings.
Still, Best said, there will be areas that students cannot reach.
"Anyone who would like to donate can place their items in a bag and drop them in the pantry's drop box outside their door -- just mark the bag "Brock Walk" -- or they can drop off items at our school," Best said.
After all the donations are collected, Miller said, the students will help at the food pantry.
"Once they are done with lunch, the kids are then taken to the food pantry, where they will unbag, organize, count and box the contributions," Miller said.
Some of the money raised from the food drive will also be used for a Simply Give initiative that runs through June 18 at the Canal Winchester Meijer store. Meijer will provide a match for every $10 Simply Give donation card purchased through the deadline and will double its donations to the pantry for Simply Give cards purchased June 2 and 3.
Once a Simply Give card is purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer food-only gift card and given directly to the local food pantry.
Miller said this allows the pantry to purchase milk and eggs each week, contribute to the Feeding Our Future program for students and provide for other pantry needs, such as the monthly soup-kitchen lunch for senior citizens at the community center.
Best said the biggest lessons learned from the Brock Walk can't be taught out of a textbook.
"We always stress to our students that we have to take care of our own community, we have to do our part, and this gives them a way to see what giving really looks like and feels like," Best said. "It's a great lesson in what happens when every person just gives a little. A little bit from everyone adds up to a lot."