FHS students rally support for local food shelf

Fundraising for fourth annual Games 4 Change event kicks off

The FHS Youth Development committee is the mastermind behind the Games 4 Change event that benefits the Farmington Food Shelf. In its fourth year, the event has sparked more interest and community support than ever before. (Photo by Theresa Malloy)

The FHS Youth Development committee is the mastermind behind the Games 4 Change event that benefits the Farmington Food Shelf. In its fourth year, the event has sparked more interest and community support than ever before. (Photo by Theresa Malloy)

Farmington High School students are gearing up for the annual Games 4 Change that benefits the Farmington Food Shelf.

In student assemblies this week, the Youth Development committee behind the event strummed up excitement with a video, skit and presentation about the highly anticipated event on Friday, April 19.

The message was simple: Farmington has a 3.8 percent poverty rate, and 17.1 percent of students in the district receive free and reduced-priced lunch. This event is a way to have fun and give back to those needing food in the community, including fellow students.

Senior Darren Beenken, one of the founding Games 4 Change members, said the “competitiveness in tournaments” helps rally students for a good cause.

The annual event began four years ago when students wanted to do a homelessness awareness event in which students spend a night in boxes to raise money. What students realized was that homelessness in Farmington looked more like people struggling to pay the bills and needing assistance at food shelves.

Principal Ben Kusch said the neatest part of the project is that it is completely led, directed and run by students.

“It creates this nexus through the school and greater community,” Kusch said.

This year’s event has already drawn more interest than past years.

“It’s awesome to see it grow,” senior Miranda Larson, another founder, said. “It’s a big deal now.”

Students behind the event described it as limitless, community and togetherness along with fun, awesome, exciting and competitive.

Games 4 Change could be described as its own hunger games. The all-night lock-in includes single-elimination tournaments benefitting people who are hungry. Everything becomes a competition: raising money, collecting food, floor hockey, dodgeball, volleyball and even sandwich-making assembly lines.

The team that brings in the most nonperishable food wins the elusive prize of a midnight food run from Kusch to a local restaurant of choice. Those who win the athletic tournaments get their names inscribed on a plaque.

New additions

The seniors are excited about their legacy and cannot wait to come back next year on the Games 4 Change alumni team that competes. Already, new leaders are helping expand the event to help people outside of the Farmington community.

Sophomore Sydney Bockelmann helped introduce the idea of sandwich making last year. The students packed 500 sandwiches that were frozen for people who came to the food shelf. This year, Bockelmann helped launch a shoe drive that runs through April 19.

Students will pack the donated shoes for the Iowa-based nonprofit Soles 4 Souls as part of Games 4 Change. The organization sends shoes around the world to places where there is a natural disaster or to people as a micro-enterprise project so they can resell shoes to get out of poverty, Bockelmann said.

The students will collect any type of new or gently used shoes. They will even accept a loose shoe without its match.

Younger students and community members can rally behind the cause through shoe donation boxes at various locations around Farmington businesses.

Twenty teams of eight students, with four girls and four boys, must raise at least $20 each to participate. Teams are encouraged to raise more than the basic fee and collect food from community members.

Last year, Games 4 Change collected 2,000 pounds of food and $4,000, which 360 Communities is able to stretch to purchase about $12,000 through its partnerships.

Anika Rychner, 360 Communities lead director of services, came to thank the Youth Development students for supporting their community before the April 3 assembly.

“I am so impressed with what you are able to pull off,” Rychner said. “You are incredible.”

She shared with the group that area food shelves run by 360 Communities have seen an overall 18 percent increase in visits last year. The Farmington Food Shelf, located at 510 Walnut St., served more than 1,300 individuals in 2012 with more than 95,000 pounds of food distributed.

“It’s a good way to give back, to the community and students,” Larson said.

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