For most people, the evenings of October 30 and 31 are filled with jokes and loads of candy. However, the members of Waukee High School’s Random Acts of Kindness Club (RAK), these are nights of service.
Many of the students involved in RAK don their costumes and go door-to-door asking for canned good donations to take to the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry.
"This effort began about five or six years ago," says Matt Pries, club supervisor. "I think it just came up at a meeting once – like so many of the ideas that we implement."
Although only a handful of students went out the first year, many students and faculty were amazed at the amount of food that was collected.
"I remember students coming into class and asking if all that food was from our advisory," Pries recalls. "It’s funny– that same kind of response still happens, but now the amount of food brought in is even more impressive. More kids go out and more food comes in."
While RAK isn’t about the numbers, the club aims – and usually achieves – to bring in a number of items that will increase the school’s total substantially, as the school-wide food drive begins around the same time.
The Trick-or-Treating for food items is an unofficial kick-off to the Waukee High School’s food drive. At the high school, advisories compete against one another by collecting food and money to donate.
But these RAK kids aren’t Trick-or-Treating for canned goods to donate through their own advisory.
"The coolest thing is that none of that food is used by the kids as part of their advisory competition. It’s above and beyond what they would normally bring," says Pries. And they collect a lot.
The students drag around reusable grocery bags, boxes, and even wagons to collect the food. Pries provides the students with slips of paper to hand to those giving out the treats so that they know the students and their purpose are legitimate. While some turn their backs or shut the door in the faces of students who are simply trying to make a difference, many give the students three to four cans on average. Occasionally, residents load the kids up with piles and piles of canned and boxed foods.
"Each year I go with a few friends," says Caitie Oder, a senior at Waukee High School who could be considered a veteran when it comes to trick or treating for canned goods. This will be her third year participating. "When asking for the cans, the adults seem surprised. I suppose they expect high schoolers to be collecting candy and causing pranks, but when we ask for canned goods, it takes them off guard."
And it takes them by surprise in a good way. Oder adds that "almost every house is willing to give."
If you see these students out and about, be prepared to empty your cupboards. These kids are out to make a difference.