NORTHAMPTON, MA: When the Collaborative for Educational Services’ HEC Academy students learned last fall about Monty’s March, they decided to get involved. This was the third year that Monte Belmonte, host of the local radio station WRSI-FM, had organized “Monte’s March”, raising money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts by pushing an empty shopping cart from Northampton to Greenfield.
Students in both the Sunderland program and HEC Academy in Northampton together raised $1,234 (an easy sum to remember) through a penny drive and a school craft fair.
The check was a sizeable donation for the day-long event which raises about $40,000 each year for the Food Bank.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we would raise that much money,” admitted Jake, a HEC Academy student. “A lot of people don’t have a lot of money…but everyone deserves a good meal…it’s good to know we made a lot of people happy on Thanksgiving Day.”
On a cold, sunny morning in November, Brandon stood on the porch of the Collaborative for Educational Services’ alternative learning program in Sunderland. He scanned the road outside and caught sight of the man he and a dozen classmates had waited for all morning. Monte Belmonte strode briskly along the side of the road with a small caravan of musicians and supporters trailing behind him.
Earlier that morning, Jake and other HEC Academy students walked several miles with Belmonte through Amherst. Collaborative students were easy to pick out from the crowd as they all wore t-shirts they designed promoting the march. “1234” was proudly displayed on many of them.
By the time Belmonte crossed over the highway to greet the Sunderland students gathering outside, he was a little more than half way on his 26 mile trek. Brandon was chosen to present the check to Belmonte as he had raised the most money of any student, pitching in over $100 of his earnings from his part-time job in a bike shop.
Belmonte thanked the students and told them their efforts were an important part of a community-wide effort to help one in eight residents in western Massachusetts who rely on donations to feed themselves and their families.
“I hope kids know that every little bit of money donated helps...that when they get involved like this, that it does make a difference,” Belmonte said.
After presenting the check, the Sunderland students joined the line of supporters and walked over five miles with the group into Deerfield. One of the students ran beside the procession, stopping every so often to snap pictures, and another gave Marty a break and pushed his shopping cart.
“I was in a really good mood that day…it was a really fun experience and give back to the community at the same time,” Jake said, recalling the march at a pizza party celebrating the event a few weeks later.
Belmonte, who was invited to the party, discovered there that he and several Collaborative students shared a love of video games.
“Monte’s cool. He’s into the same things I am,” Jake added. “I didn’t know that before.”