They call it Operation Snowball, and the name is pretty self-explanatory.
For the last 15 years, students and teachers at Cedar Hill middle school have gathered donations of food and money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, with the amount of donations steadily growing year after year.
Last week, the school celebrated its collection of 126 boxes of food and a record-breaking $5,500 for the society.
“We began with a very, very small food drive, and that basically snowballed into what we have today,” said teacher Ed Parent, who started the first Operation Snowball.
“In our early experiences, we weren’t sure what to do, but we were able to find the St. Vincent de Paul Society to accept our gifts. They were very, very pleased, right from the beginning.”
At the end of November, Cedar Hill held its first generosity assembly, in which Parent challenged the school’s 520 students to raise $2,000 and fill 101 boxes of food. The students tripled their fundraising goal (an additional $700 went to families in need in the community) and easily cleared 101 boxes.
“We have a little school, so 126 boxes and two tonnes of food, that’s pretty good,” said Parent.
The fundraising kicked off at the end of November through food and coin drives, two winter concerts and Operation Snowball night, a craft-making event open to the community that also gathered money through bake sales, raffles and a silent auction.
Principal Carter Giesbrecht noted that many students also spent their free time working toward collecting donations through campaigns such as food hamper pickups in the community.
“We talked at the beginning of the assembly about what generosity means: that idea of giving not only money but time and effort and love and attention in order to help others and not expect anything in return,” said Giesbrecht.
“The students have given their time on weekends and after school, as well as the teachers, and the community has been so generous by donating money and food and coming out and supporting our Operation Snowball evening.
“The amount of energy and time these guys have committed has just been absolutely astounding. It’s just blown me away.”
Giesbrecht credited Parent for the continued success of Operation Snowball, and the increasing support from students, teachers and neighbours.
“He’s working incredibly hard, and it’s thanks to him and the tireless efforts he’s put in,” said Giesbrecht.
“It’s just absolutely incredible the amount of time and energy he’s put into making sure Operation Snowball works.”
“I’ve been here for about 25 years, and the feeling I get is that people want to give,” said Parent.
“They realize that we have to give, that we’ve got to raise the generosity bar, with homeless people and those that are underprivileged on that edge.
“Everyone seems to understand, including the younger children, we’ve got to help some people.”