By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown Food Pantry got quite a donation the week of Thanksgiving ... thanks to a bunch of turkeys.
Every year, Wickford Middle School (WMS) holds a turkey trot where students and faculty dress up in costumes in hopes of getting donations for the food pantry. Students compete against other each other, as do members of the faculty, and the ones who raise the most money from each group receive the bragging rights and the title of ‘Head Turkey’.
This year, a total of $5,074.50 was raised and WMS principal Terry Merkel presented a check last week to food pantry director Bonnie Smith along with Head Turkey teacher Suzanne Klose and student Head Turkeys Shelby McIntosh and Julia Steinweh-Adler, both sixth graders.
The turkey trot has been in existence since 1991 but the donated total has only been recorded for the last seven years, during which time a total of $30,113.61 has been raised.
In order to raise awareness and make sure the students understand the purpose of the event, the turkey trot is discussed during student advisories. Students are given an overview of the history of the food pantry and made aware of how families can take advantage of the program.
“Everyone looks forward to this every year,” Merkel said. “It’s a week of fun and the students really work hard in getting donations. Not only do they do it during school lunch, but they ask family and neighbors.”
When you ask students why it’s important to give during the holidays, they’ll all say the same thing: making a difference makes them feel happy.
“My mom helps out at the food pantry and the quality of food sometimes isn’t so good,” said sixth grader Nate. “It makes me feel bad so being able to donate money [will lead to a] better quality of food items that can be purchased.”
Head Turkey Steinweh-Adler got a lot of support from friends, with one donating $200. Among the costumes she dressed up as was a duct tape Christmas tree and a smurfette. McIntosh went the rock star theme dressing up as Pink, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. Head Teacher Turkey Klose also had a theme, bird. She dressed up as a Lady Gaga bird, a turkey, a jail bird and angry birds.
“It takes a lot of guts to dress up and ask people for money,” said Klose. “But the kids did it and raised more money than the faculty. Many of the students also made new friends because of this.”
When Smith was presented the check from Merkel, she was overjoyed and became a little emotional.
“We serve all families from all parts in town. This generous donations is going to help out tremendously.”