Following fourth-grade food drive, Whately Elementary hosts mini Monte’s March

WHATELY — Whately Elementary School students took part in their own miniature version of Monte’s March on Wednesday, circling the school several times while chanting phrases like “feed hungry people” as an extension of a fourth-grade food drive.

Organized by fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Apanell, students marched around the school with signs about ending hunger to follow a school-wide food drive between Nov. 9 and Nov. 19 that donated 635 pounds of food to the Northampton Survival Center. The march coincided with Monday and Tuesday’s Monte’s March, a fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts organized by radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte.

“The fourth-graders do a community project and each year it keeps getting bigger,” Apanell said. “We asked Monte to talk to the kids and he came last week. … The kids found it to be enjoyable.”

Whately Police Chief James Sevigne issued a challenge to the children to donate as much food as possible.

“The police chief challenged us to stuff his cruiser,” Apanell said. “There wasn’t much room left.”

Apanell added that the mini march is a chance to have the elementary school students from preschool to sixth grade think about ways they can help the community at large.

“It’s really important … the kids can think outside of their small, little world,” Apanell said. “And it’s important to take care of each other in the building, but it’s also important to take care of our community and beyond.”

Fourth-grader Lucia Gendron said it was “fun and nice” to help out those experiencing food insecurity.

“It’s going to people,” Lucia said. “It’s exciting to help.”

She added the group effort of the entire school donating food was great to see.

“I liked how everyone was putting in,” she said. “It wasn’t just a few people donating.”

Fellow fourth-grader Grace Baronas said collecting the food and packing it was her favorite part of the experience, along with the fact that it was going to a good cause.

“It made me feel happy,” Grace said, “that other people were getting food.”

The students marched around the soccer field, the playground and behind the school several times as they held signs adorned with phrases like “stop hunger” and “food for all.” Apanell said the march was a great way to get the students together and spend the half day before Thanksgiving.

Principal Kristina Kirton said the event was a chance to have the entire school come together as a community again. She noted the school can’t have its monthly auditorium gatherings due to the pandemic.

“That’s what I was most excited about today,” Kirton said. “Finding these opportunities has been difficult.”

Kirton said she was grateful for the fourth-grade class’ effort in doing the community service project.

“I’m thankful for Stephanie Apanell, (classroom assistant) Lauren Preston-Wells and the fourth grade,” Kirton said, “for taking on this project.”

By CHRIS LARABEE, Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2021 3:02:37 PM