Hunger Walk benefits Pack-A-Sack

First year to reach $100,000 fundraising goal

BY NICOLE CAROPOLO Suncoast News staff Apr 16, 2018

NEW PORT RICHEY — For some children, the only food they eat on the weekend is what is given to them through Pasco Pack-A-Sack at school. A local organization held a walk to raise money for the program to decrease child hunger in the county.

The One Community Now Hunger Walk was held for the fourth year on Saturday, April 7, at Gulf High School. More than 1,000 people attended the walk, and this is the first year that the event organizers have reached their goal of $100,000.

One Community Now and other Pasco County organizations put together the walk to benefit Pasco Pack-A-Sack Food 4 Kids, a program that provides food to students in need during holiday breaks and weekends.

“Unfortunately, there are kids that only eat on Friday for lunch and then don’t eat again until Monday when they come to school,” said Patti Templeton, One Community Now executive director. “So, that’s what the Pack-A-Sack program is designed to do. It’s to help identify those most in-need children and then provide food for them over the weekend.”

Templeton said they had more activities this year than previous walks, including team relays and one mile runs. There was also a bounce house, a children activities area and dodgeball.

Susan Ban participated in the event for the second year in a row and walked over 10 laps. She enjoys the feeling of helping others, especially as an employee of a Title 1 school, meaning a high percentage of its students come from low-income families and therefore qualify for free or reduced-cost meals.

“I’m all for helping kids and families in need,” Ban said. “Participating in an important cause makes me feel good. I feel likes its part of what God wants me to do on this planet.”

Danielle Hudnall and Jessica Silvestor were two of the teachers who made up the team of 10 Calusa Elementary School walk participants, which raised over $600. Calusa Elementary School is one of the 28 schools that participate in the Pasco Pack-A-Sack Food 4 Kids program.

“If we didn’t have it, like our kids that benefit from the Pack-A-Sack, wouldn’t have the food on the weekends,” Silvestor said.

They also won the Team Spirit Award for the second year in a row.

“We’re competitive. It’s not really an option to not win,” Hudnall joked.

Emmah and Aaron Heinrichs, 8-year-old fraternal twins, also played a hand in the success of the Hunger Walk. The young do-gooders decided they wanted to help One Community Now feed hungry children in Pasco. So, they set up a lemonade stand and raised $127.72 at the end of March to donate to the walk.

Generations Christian Church, in Trinity, was the top overall team with over $10,000 raised, and Michelle DiNicola was the top individual fundraiser, with over $3,000 raised. The top organization award went to Team Tax Collector, over $3,000 raised, and Gulfside Elementary School, in Holiday, won top school team, over $3,000 raised. The top partner for Pack-A-Sack was Unity Spiritual Center, in Port Richey, with over $5,000 raised.

“It’s just really great to see how our community comes together when we have a need,” Templeton said. “Especially in the time of our society where there seems to be so much division, today there was no division. We were all one.”

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