CARMICHAELS – Carmichaels Area School District’s National Honor Society members found a unique way to combat hunger in their community.
For a second year, the Carmichaels Area NHS hosted “The Hunger Games” for students and staff in the district. The goal of the event was to encourage the collection of canned goods and other nonperishable food items for the Cumberland Township Food Pantry at the United Methodist Church in Carmichaels.
“There was so much food collected. We were so appreciative of what they did,” said Terri Trackemas, coordinator of the pantry. “The school district does a lot in the community.”
The half-day event was conducted during an Act 80 day in the district leading into Easter weekend. Students and faculty formed 16 teams with each team competing in five events. Teams were challenged to contribute food items from each member in order to participate.
“Anyone could turn in canned goods and you didn’t have to be a member of a team to donate them,” said NHS representative Kerigan Fabrey. “Each team had six to seven players and each team was asked to contribute a case of canned goods.”
Teacher Rose Gabeletto, one of the coordinators for the games, said 35 cases of canned goods were collected. “They are being donated to our local food pantry, Mikes helping Mikes,” Gabeletto said. “It shows you can do something to help others and still have a good time while doing it.”
The level of energy in the high school gymnasium, where the games were held, was high as teachers and students put aside vanity to compete in the events with the rest of the student body watching from the bleachers. Game one required the wearing of a stocking over one’s head with a tennis ball in the foot. Called the “pendulum of destiny,” the participant had to move their head back and forth to knock over an object with the ball.
Another game required team members to strap a Kleenex box filled with ping pong balls to the buttocks, and then somehow shake them out and into the hands of another member. But it was the “passing of the golden orb” that proved to be the most amusing of the events. An orange placed under the chin of a team member was transferred to the chin of the next member without the use of hands. As the oranges occasionally fell to the floor, members writhed across the gym surface trying to capture it under their chin and stand up to start over, much to the delight of the onlookers.
Carmichaels Area Superintendent Craig Baily said the district’s students and staff, along with community members, are consistently generous when it comes to helping those in need.
“Our students are very civic minded and that keeps going generation-after-generation from what we’re seeing through student involvement,” Baily said.
Trackemas, who was employed in the district at one time, said she couldn’t agree more with Baily’s assessment. It was her former colleague, Gabeletto, who informed her of the games and what the students accomplished for the pantry.
“We don’t just serve Carmichaels. We serve people from Nemacolin, Crucible and all of Cumberland Township,” Trackemas said. “A year ago we served about 64 families. This year there have been more than 200 families with six, seven and eight members.”
She attributed a poor economy and failing industries for the large shift in the numbers and noted the stigma sometimes attached to seeking help is falling away. “More or less, anybody” can find themselves in need, making the work of food pantry volunteers and groups like Carmichaels NHS all the more important, she said.
“The teachers and students (at Carmichaels) are a wonderful group of people. I just can’t say enough about them,” Trackemas said. “It takes everybody to make it work. I’m so grateful, so blessed.”