Sometimes the biggest lessons that get taught and learned within the halls of Wilton High School are ones that come directly from the students. Such is the case for three members of the WHS sophomore class who have organized a Stop Hunger Now event taking place this Sunday, Dec. 4, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the WHS Field House. Not only have they come up with an idea that has motivated so many of their classmates to get involved and give back, but they’re teaching adults a thing or two about having their hearts in the right place.

The idea originated last year, when Ava Kaplan, Zoe Weiss and Lily Kepner were freshmen. At the time, Ava was president of the class and Zoe was vice president, and they wanted to create a fun event to unite their classmates, in the way that the seniors and juniors have proms. “Other than Homecoming, which is for everyone, underclassmen don’t really have any events that are ‘theirs,’” says Ava, “so we wanted to create something fun our class could do together.”

But they didn’t want to just hold another dance; instead they wanted to come up with something that would both be fun and help others at the same time.

Ava and Zoe connected with Lily, who had started a Wi-ACT club in the high school last year and who was very familiar with the Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event organized by the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee every October. Together, the three decided a Stop Hunger Now packaging effort would be a great event for underclassmen to rally around.

“It’s ideal, when you think of people coming together to help other people, doing something good–everyone is in an assembly line, talking, strangers meeting. It hit me as a good idea for the class to participate in,” Zoe explains.

Quickly, the girls saw that their idea had legs: “It started as a class event just for the Class of 2019. But the more we seriously looked into we realized we wanted to open it to the community. We didn’t want it to be just our class–we live in a community where so many people have the opportunity to help. So why just limit it to the 300 people in our class. The more we talked, the more we wanted it to be more of a community event.”

Their class has enthusiastically embraced the idea, and all of the volunteer packaging spots are filled. They’ve also gotten support from the entire student body, which has helped them raise money through bake sales and other donations.

But now they hope to open up the opportunity even more, to ask the wider community to help support the effort–either through additional donations through the event website, sharing the website link on social media, or even coming to the event to help set up before and clean up after.

“We appreciate the help and still need the help,” says Zoe. “Even clicking share on Facebook is a big help for us–each time someone does we see a big bump in the donations,” says Zoe, who explains that the donations are what funds the event. That pays for the raw food material and the cost to stage the event itself. By meeting their goal of $2,994. 09  they’ve been able to fund making 10,152 meals.

“It costs $0.29 for a meal, and one meal is six serving sizes. It’s crazy that $0.29 can feed six people one meal, or one person six meals,” Ava says.

They’ve not only been successful at meeting their first goal, earlier this week they learned that they have actually raised even more money, enough to be able to package 12,560 meals. In fact, as of press time, the total amount they’ve raised is $3,768.49. They hope that amount will even continue to grow, because whatever excess they raise beyond what they use for Sunday’s meal packaging will be donated to Wi-ACT to help pay for next October’s town-wide event.

“The more money we raise, the more supplies we can bring in and the more meals will be sent off,” Ava says.

They realize that not only are people donating toward an event that will have a huge impact on someone by feeding them for relatively little cost, what people are also supporting is the spark of philanthropy and giving back in Wilton teens. Anyone who pledges and donates is actually encouraging these WHS teens to be motivated about helping other people. That’s a lesson that should excite everyone as much as it does these young organizers.

The girls have gotten enthusiastic support from WHS administration, who were on board from the start and let the students run with it.

“Through student government we meet a lot with [principal] Dr. [Robert] O’Donnell and [associate principal] Mr. [Donald] Schels, every time we meet with them they just say, ‘Tell us what you need.’ They’ve been so supportive,” says Ava. They also credit their advisor, Kathy Soderholm and their classmates who are helping to organize the event.

To support them through donation, visit their webpage. To help on Sunday, stop by the WHS Field House from 11 a.m.-1 p.m..