Contrary to other traditions that take place on Halloween, Cans4Kids, a student-run community engagement club, hosted a different kind of “trick-or-treating.” Led by Eamon Garrity-Rokous ’20, almost 30 Andover students participated in Cans4Kids’s alternative to trick-or-treating by collecting over 1000 foodstuffs for charity.
According to Garrity-Rokous, the collected foodstuffs will later be donated to The Lazarus House and to St. Mark’s Food Bank. Garrity-Rokous attributed the project’s success to its status as a collective effort, rather than an individual undertaking.
Garrity-Rokous said, “[My favorite part of Cans4Kids was] definitely the trick-or-treating part and seeing how grateful not only the local Andover residents were but also how grateful The Lazarus House was [to] accept a really large amount of donations that they don’t really get on average. This was clearly a community effort, a greater community effort than [what] one person could do.”
Garrity-Rokous began the Cans4Kids project last fall, and was joined around Winter Term by Eliomar Lopez ’19 and Pablo Sanchez ’19, who became the first members of the club. According to Garrity-Rokous, the incentive for creating the club came from an attempt to increase community outreach.
Garrity-Rokous said, “I wanted to create [a] community engagement project that would include not only Andover but greater Andover communities as well. At the time it was fall of last year, and so I thought… how can I incorporate this into like a school schedule, how can I get a greater amount of people when I know they have free time to do something as a community, and I came up with Halloween. Since a lot of Andover students and a lot of kids in general already go trick-or-treating on Halloween I thought, well, this is a great opportunity to have Andover students go trick-or-treating for, let’s say, non-perishable foods.”
Sarah Driscoll, Instructor in English and Faculty Advisor for Cans4Kids, emphasized the importance of Cans4Kids this year, especially given the recent gas explosions in Andover and surrounding areas.
Driscoll said, “The Halloween idea really came from Eamon, and at an opportune moment, given how the gas explosions have impacted local communities. The club is, as the title suggests, focused on giving back to kids, making sure that we prioritize children’s needs in the process.”
Last year, Cans4Kids collected around 150 foodstuffs, surpassing their initial goal of 100. This year, their goal was to collect over 500 foodstuffs, which they once again surpassed by collecting 1000 foodstuffs.
Lopez said, “Last year it was just three of us and we collected well over 100 non-perishable goods. This year we had over 50 volunteers and collected over 1000 non perishable goods. Our goal for next year is to hopefully double our numbers.”
The Cans4Kids project, however, was not without challenges, according to Garrity-Rokous.
Previously, one of the most pressing challenges for Cans4Kids had been student participation. This year, Cans4Kids set up a booth at the club rally hoping to increase the number of participating students. A total around 160 students signed up for this year’s project.
Garrity Rokous said, “The other challenge we encountered was…getting them to actually participate in the club. We wanted to make sure that we got students to do it. [This year] we got a good number of students to actually achieve our goals. I was very satisfied with that.”
Another challenge that Cans4Kids faced, according to Garrity-Rokous, was acquiring necessary materials to carry the non-perishable foodstuffs. To combat this problem, Cans4Kids used nine plastic wagons donated by faculty members to help students carry the foodstuffs as they went around the streets of Andover.
According to Driscoll, Cans4Kids plans to continue expanding their project in the upcoming years by focusing on different, specific areas.
Driscoll said, “Our main focus will be the successful execution of additional fundraisers and events throughout the year that build on our momentum from the Halloween event, in addition to ensuring that students maintain a high level of participation.”
Garrity-Rokous said that Cans4Kids has high hopes for next year’s Halloween project. Their goal for next year will be to collect 2000 foodstuffs. Garrity-Rokous also says he hopes that the Cans4Kids project will be passed on once the current club leaders graduate.
Garrity-Rokous said, “I would say I want to double the project, not only how many Andover students participate but also how many in terms of how many end wagons we get from the faculty [and] but especially how much food we donate… I also hope to just pass it on…so [Cans4Kids] will be continued after I’m gone. I started with Eli Lopez, Pablo Sanchez and me. So just a group of Andover wrestlers who thought you know, why not, let’s go out and do this!”