Submitted by Michael J. McQuarrie, Headmaster of Erskine Academy
Beginning in September, Erskine Academy committed to a challenging mission, once again, to collect food and funds to support the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine (GSFB) by participating in WGME13/Fox23’s School Spirit Challenge Tournament of Champions. The School Spirit Challenge (SSC) is a friendly competition between schools to show school pride and spirit, all while helping the community.
The program is designed to promote the school community and good stewardship with students of high schools in central and southern Maine through an eight-week food drive to benefit the Good Shepherd Food Bank and local food pantries.
This was the second time Erskine participated in the School Spirit Challenge, the first being two years ago, an event which was won handily over the other participating schools thanks to the efforts of many students, parents, alumni, businesses, and friends. In 2016, Erskine was the School Spirit Champion for having raised nearly 85,000 pounds of food, an amount exceeding the total raised by the second and third finishers combined.
Always up for a challenge and a worthy cause, the campaign was kicked off during the school’s homecoming in September. In attendance were WGME 13 anchor Jeff Peterson and representatives from the GSFB and the sponsors of this year’s SSC. The morning kicked off with students arriving at 5:30 a.m. for a tailgate breakfast served in exchange for their food donations.
The campaign continued until November 2 and was a more significant success than the Academy ever imagined. The Erskine community pulled together to collect food and monetary donations and to support the many activities of the Challenge. Events included “Fill the Bus” with returnables, the Fly Like an Eagle 5K Run/Walk, Trivia Night, Trunk or Treat, Open Mic Night, and a dodgeball tournament. Off-campus activities included an EA Parents Food Drive Challenge. An online appeal went out on social media, and many generous donors gave through the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s virtual food drive.
Though initiated by Erskine’s students and faculty, the school led what was a broader community campaign supported substantially by many area businesses and organizations. Student council representatives will soon visit key contributors as part of their “Gratitude Tour.”
Erskine Academy won the competition by far exceeding its goal of 100,000 pounds. Erskine raised a record-breaking 196,969.25 pounds of food for The Good Shepherd Food Bank, which is over twice the amount that any of the 60-plus competing schools has raised in the five years and ten seasons of this competition.
About this accomplishment, Headmaster McQuarrie says, “The School Spirit Challenge was for a great cause, and through it, our community engaged in collective problem-solving and activism as we made a significant difference in the fight against hunger in Maine. We demonstrated, and others witnessed, the dynamism of EA’s values—stewardship, leadership, and relationships—at work. The work ethic, inspiration, and idealism of our young people, in particular, are humbling and heartening.”