Student’s heavy lifting helps Maywood food donations top one ton

December 23, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 1:30 p.m. Dec. 23, 2013

Contributed Sam Catherall, Maywood Middle School eighth-grader, stands among the 576 pounds of canned and nonperishable food he collected for his school’s annual food drive.

Sam Catherall, Maywood Middle School eighth-grader, stands among the 576 pounds of canned and nonperishable food he collected for his school’s annual food drive.

A whole lot of families will eat well this holiday season, thanks to Maywood Middle School’s annual food drive benefitting Northwest Harvest.

Students took the challenge seriously to bring in as much canned and nonperishable food as possible, collecting about 3,500 pounds of donations.

One student in particular, though, went above and beyond in his quest to bring needy families a dash of holiday cheer.

Sam Catherall, a Maywood eighth-grader, collected 576 pounds of food, accounting for about half of the nearly 1,200 pounds his first-period class accumulated.

“You see commercials on TV where there are these hungry families and I just want to help them,” he said. “I get to eat every day. It’s kind of messed up that they don’t get to eat every day.”

Sam set an admittedly ambitious goal of amassing 500 pounds worth of food, but he easily surpassed that, and he did it without any financial assistance from his parents.

It would have been easy, he said, to just have his parents buy the food for him, but he decided to take a more grassroots approach, soliciting donations from neighbors, friends and strangers.

He received permission to stand outside the Sunset Way Albertsons on one of the busiest weekends of the year, just before Thanksgiving.

There, Sam handed out pieces of paper outlining his cause to shoppers as they entered the store. When they left, they’d often hand him a bag of groceries to add to his collection.

One shopper gave Sam $50, which he quickly went in to spend on some canned food to add to his pile of donations.

Another shopper emerged from the store with a single package of sausage and two bags of groceries. He handed the filled bags to Sam, and proceeded to his car with just the sausage.

“It was really awesome to see people that were more than generous,” said Charlene Catherall, Sam’s mother. “Some people would just give us one can and say, ‘I’m sorry this is all I can give you,’ but every can counted, so it didn’t matter.”

They left the store after about three hours, but they could have stayed much longer, thanks to the Albertsons patrons’ extreme generosity, Charlene Catherall said.

Sam also went door-to-door in his neighborhood asking for donations, and sent emails to friends and family.

When people gave money, instead of food, Sam saved the funds for a Costco shopping spree to add to his donation pile.

All in all, Sam surpassed his goal by more than 75 pounds, accumulating the most food in the school, and leading his class to first place in the schoolwide competition for the top-collecting class.

“I’ve never had a kid do that kind of thing since I’ve been teaching here,” Hillary Nadell, Sam’s first-period teacher, said. “That took a lot of time on his part. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the time he spent and the work he did.”

Nadell, a language arts and social studies teacher at the school, is no stranger to the annual competition. Her class consistently raises the most food in the school, which this year came with a prize of doughnuts.

Sam said he credits Nadell with giving him the determination to collect as much food as he did.

“She’s the driving force behind it, because Sam came home from school inspired to collect food,” Charlene Catherall said of Nadell. “It’s the third year he’s been at this school and he’s never been this motivated to do that.”

The annual food drive is a cause that Nadell said she ardently supports, in part because of the lessons it imparts on her students.

“At the middle school level especially, their worlds, for the most part, are pretty small,” she said. “This is a way for them to realize that there are people other than just themselves.”

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