School ‘with a big heart’ offers hope

“Impressive. This is a school with a big heart.”

Those were the words responding to an online post about Students HOPE, Colorado Academy’s annual student-run service event that provides, food, clothing, supplies, and simple medical services to people in need.

This was the 26th year of HOPE at CA. On the first Saturday in December, several tons of clothing and shoes donated by the CA community were stacked high on tables in the 16-thousand-square-foot Field House. There were stations for receiving backpacks and school supplies, disposable diapers and toiletries, wrapped holiday gifts, a holiday meal, pictures with Santa, and free flu shots.

CA students, parents, grandparents, past parents, and alumni all turned out to volunteer in what has become a favorite day for many, described by some as “one of the best things that CA does.” Even the Walgreens staff members who came to administer flu shots were the same team from last year—anxious to return to this day on CA’s campus.

The day begins months in advance with planning by students. Three Co-Presidents, (this year, Seniors Andersen Dodge, Brandon Cohen, and Caroline Briggs) along with many directors and volunteers, run different aspects of the day, from food services to transportation, and from a diaper drive to school supplies. Students are also responsible for fundraising to purchase new holiday gifts, for writing and mailing solicitation letters, designing a logo, maintaining a dedicated website and generating volunteers. They also work to ensure that all signage is in English and Spanish and that registration tables, gift, and service tables are staffed with students who can speak both languages.

Beginning each Fall, collection bins are placed in each divisional building, and over a few weeks, the CA community provides several tons of gently used items to share. The donations are stored until the Friday before HOPE, and then a train of students— starting in the basement of the Carolyn Smith Center and going to the Athletic Center—transports, sorts, folds, and stacks the items.

Last-minute problems, like a shortage of backpacks, a need for more pies, or a last-minute push for help, all require attention. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that is part of planning of this day,” says Co-President Caroline Briggs. “It is a lot of work.”

No matter the appeal though, the answer from the CA community is always a generous response. In addition to all the supplies, CA families donated more than $21,000 to the cause. “We just feel so fortunate to be able to put on this event for the community,” says Co-President Andersen Dodge.

And what the students put forth in effort, Co-President Brandon Cohen says comes back many times over. “People seemed especially grateful this year for what we provided.”

And, the giving won’t stop with HOPE. While students will soon begin planning for next year at CA, leftover clothing from this year will be donated to FACE, a Denver Public Schools program that provides community- and school-based services to help and empower families.

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