Hundreds of Denver-area guests arrived by car and by bus for the 29th annual HOPE event at Colorado Academy on December 10, 2022. Entirely student-run, HOPE offers free clothing, school supplies, toiletries, baby essentials, toys, food, medical care, fun activities, community services, and much more to families in need.
With record quantities of donated apparel, shoes, and personal care and baby items filling the West Gym in the CA Athletic Center; a plethora of toys, wrapped presents, and games delighting children in the Field House; hot food and health services offered in the Campus Center; and holiday-themed family photos available in the Choir Room in Schotters Music Center, families could spend the day on CA’s campus stocking up on much needed items and sharing seasonal cheer.
Senior Katherine Pulido, one of three HOPE co-presidents, says, “Opening up all of CA’s campus for HOPE meant this year we were able to do even more good and make more of an impact.”
“I’m really happy with how this year’s event has turned out,” adds Senior and HOPE co-president Zoe Cope. “We had so many donated supplies—toys, canned food, toiletries, and especially presents for kids—that families could take as much as they wanted. People were leaving campus with big bags of items that will genuinely help and bring happiness in the coming holiday season and beyond.”
HOPE co-president and Senior Andrew Koclanes says, “This day allows us to connect with the larger Denver metro community and to help those who don’t have as much as we have.”
Says Lisa Dean, CA’s Upper School Service Learning Coordinator and the faculty sponsor of the HOPE initiative, “It has been incredible to see the generosity and the heart of the CA community come together at this event. It warms my heart beyond what I can even say to see families lining up, excited, at 7:30 in the morning, with their children all bundled and ready for a fun day. It means a lot that so many of our students had a part in providing this opportunity for families to create memories.”
Hundreds of volunteers
Co-presidents Cope, Koclanes, and Pulido spent the entire fall preparing for the big day. They led a corps of approximately 70 student directors and associates to solicit donated items, oversee drives throughout the school, plan games and activities, arrange for food to be served, partner with community organizations that provide health care and other services, coordinate free bus transportation for the attendees—many of whom come from shelters in the Denver metro area—and manage every other aspect of HOPE.
On the Friday before the event, all these efforts finally came together when hundreds of Middle and Upper School student volunteers, along with faculty and staff, pitched in to help sort, organize, and display donations, wrap presents, set up activities and services, and ensure CA’s campus was ready to welcome guests the following morning.
Commenting on the massive turnout of volunteer helpers as well as the record donations, Upper School English teacher and longtime HOPE participant Stuart Mills observes, “I think there was sort of a collective desire this year to help out in a way we haven’t been able to do because of the pandemic. Kids who saw HOPE as Middle Schoolers finally got a chance to take part as Upper Schoolers, and they were super-energized.”
“We had an amazing response from students and teachers,” says Koclanes of the volunteer workforce. “People came to us throughout the day Friday asking how they could help.”
The big day
When Saturday morning arrived, Cope, Koclanes, and Pulido along with their directors and associates were eager to greet the throngs of families who had arrived early at the doors of the Athletic Center.
“I have been involved for many years supporting students with HOPE,” says Dean, “and recognized a lot of the families from previous years. They look forward to HOPE—it’s a family tradition.”
Welcoming guests to the West Gym and Field House in English and Spanish, students helped parents find shoes and clothes in the sizes they needed, handed out canned food, and directed children to games and activities like a bouncy obstacle course, face-painting station, and STEAM-inspired Lego racetrack dreamed up by Lower School science teacher Jeff Goldstein.
“I loved playing with the little kids in the Field House,” says Cope. “Just helping direct families to whatever they may need was so rewarding.”
Meanwhile, in the Campus Center, Sodexo Food Service General Manager Paul Worley and a small army of student volunteers served comfort food to hungry visitors in the Dining Hall. Dentists, vision specialists, and nurses provided exams and flu vaccinations, and representatives from the nonprofit Benefits in Action offered assistance with applying for Medicaid, Medicare, and food outreach.
“I’m really thankful for the CA community standing behind me,” Pulido acknowledges. “Working in the Dining Hall with so many volunteers and seeing our guests lining up for food and getting to sit together as a family has been really great.”
Inside the Choir Room in the Schotters Music Center, families posed with the Gingerbread Man, Rudolph, and other beloved characters for holiday portraits, which were printed and delivered on the spot.
“We couldn’t do this event without our volunteers,” Koclanes explains. “They provide the energy that keeps us going throughout the day.”
“It’s amazing to see what you can do when you put in a ton of effort and organization and collaboration with others,” adds Koclanes. “A relatively small community like CA can help so many people.”