WHS Student-Led “Feeding 500” Club Plans Holiday Hustle 5K to Benefit Open Doors

A new Wilton High School student-led club called Feeding 500 has formed as part of a regional group of high school students organizing to help Open Doors of Norwalk. The organization was formerly structured as a shelter but has now expanded to offer additional services and support for people in the Norwalk area facing housing instability.

The WHS chapter of Feeding 500 is planning its first major fundraising event, a Holiday Hustle 5K on Sunday, Dec. 11 in Wilton.

Feeding 500 was started by a New Canaan High School senior named Oliver Tuff who has volunteered at Open Doors. His idea of getting more teenagers involved in supporting the Norwalk organization has expanded to Darien High School, St. Luke’s School, Larchmont and now Wilton. Tuff reached out to Wilton High School sophomore Tanner Schmauch through their moms who are friends, and Schmauch was eager to pitch in and start a Wilton arm.

“Open Doors has all these facilities and they supply homes for people and they have a whole medical facility. It’s really amazing what they’ve been able to do there,” Schmauch said.

Feeding 500 got its name from the idea that the effort would raise enough money and food donations to feed 500 people. Since its founding in March 2021, the students have raised more than $75,000.

Working with Schmauch to lead the WHS Feeding 500 club are sisters Abby Phelan (sophomore) and Maddie Phelan (junior); brothers Connor Buchichio (sophomore) and Cooper Buchicio (freshman); Liam Murphy (sophomore); and Cole Galante (sophomore).

The club has additional volunteers and student members, all of whom are encouraged to get involved and be hands-on volunteers with Open Doors in addition to their work organizing the 5K.

“On Thanksgiving, my family, we’re going to Open Doors and they’re doing a whole Thanksgiving breakfast for the people that stay there. We’re going to help them set up and volunteer,” Abby Phelan said, adding that her mother and younger sister have participated in the Halloween Trick-or-Treating with the Open Doors community as well.

“They have so many volunteer opportunities and during the school year it’s definitely a little tough for some kids to do it because of sports and school and everything. But we definitely try to encourage people,” Schmauch added.

The group has been industriously planning out the 5K, working with town officials and the Wilton Police Department to secure permits and locations. They’ve secured sponsors, mapped out the race route, and planned out marketing and advertising to begin recruiting runners.

“This week we’re going to put our flyer up all over town and advertise on Facebook and everything, just get the word out. We’re [already] at 15 signups with barely any advertising… we haven’t even done our marketing push yet,” Schmauch added.

The 5K will start and finish at Comstock Community Center (180 School Rd.). The course travels through the Norwalk River Valley Trail, Kristine Lilly Way, past the high school, into Allen’s Meadow, around Kristine Lilly Field, and around the WHS track, before heading past Cider Mill School back to Comstock. (Runners will be able to access restrooms at Comstock as well.)

The race is set to start at 9:30 a.m. It will be chip-timed and is open to runners of all ages and abilities.

There is a $30 registration fee for runners who pre-register online; anyone who pre-registers will receive a fleece headband embroidered with the Feeding 500 5K logo. Registration on the day of the race is $40. All proceeds support Open Doors.

Schmauch said while the club is just starting with this event there are plans for more fundraisers in the future.

“Hopefully once we get bigger we can do one or two big events a year and then just some little events sprinkled throughout the year with big sales and food drives and stuff,” he said.

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