Genelle Hill was shocked when she learned how much money her Sooke high school could raise for the local food bank over the holidays.
Edward Milne Community School ended up donating more than $11,200 from 10,000 Tonight, the annual event that usually sees hundreds of students and volunteers collect food items across the West Shore.
Last month, that tradition was turned upside down when Edward Milne, Belmont and Royal Bay secondary schools had to abruptly cancel their plans after the province ruled that collecting food items wasn’t safe amid rising COVID-19 cases.
EMCS avoided a drive-thru donation option and instead focused on hosting an online auction and encouraging donations.
In hindsight, Hill said that pivot was a risk worth taking.
“I’ve always known that Sooke is a tight-knit community,” said the Grade 12 student. “But we weren’t too sure how this event was going to go. Our auction started really slow. It really just snowballed, and we didn’t expect the outcome we got at all.”
More than $11,200 will turn into $25,000 to $28,000 worth of spending dollars for the Sooke Food Bank, as its buying power is 2 to 2.5 times greater than the average shopper.
“We were absolutely floored,” said Todd Powell, vice-principal.
“Having to pivot away from what we’ve known 10,000 Tonight to be in the past was tough. That nervousness diminished when we started seeing the number of people that were donating to the cause, no matter the medium.”
Last year, all three Sooke School District high schools collectively donated almost 44,000 items for the food bank.
Meanwhile, Belmont in Langford raised $2,780, and Royal Bay in Colwood raised $4,625. The two schools donated their portion of funds towards the Goldstream Food Bank. Overall, the three schools raised more than $18,600.
Powell said EMCS would start talking about whether next year’s version of 10,000 Tonight will resume to the original format or shift towards online donations mostly. He pointed out that pre-pandemic, they couldn’t collect meat, dairy or fresh fruits and veggies – whereas monetary donations could fund those purchases instead.