A group of high school students will take to the streets of Blount County Halloween night. They don’t want candy. They want cans.
The eleventh annual Trick or Cans promotion will take place Friday, Oct. 31. The event, which was started at Maryville High School, now involves students from all four high schools.
Scott McAmis said the initiative started with just a few neighborhoods, and it has grown. “Last year we collected over 8,000 cans. It has gotten substantially bigger. Every year we try to get a little bit bigger and increase by a few more people. We try to incorporate different people from other high schools other than Maryville and try to get a few new neighborhoods every year,” he said. “The past few years, we’ve set our goal at 10,000 cans. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we always try to get there.”
Michae Musick said there is usually plenty of enthusiasm for the effort -- in part because the high school students enjoy dressing up and trick or treating while knowing they are doing something good for the community.
“Students generally support it. They love to lead groups and participate. We really do have a lot of support,” Michae said.
Scott said about 200 high school students from throughout Blount County participate.
“Ninety percent come from Maryville because all the chairs go to Maryville High School. We get a few that help through United Way Intercounty Youth Council,” he said. “The council has people from every high school.”
Scott said often students begin working with the program as freshmen and continue to be in a group or be a team leader all the way through high school. “I’ve had people come up to me in August and say, ‘I want to lead a group,’ It’s a great way to get involved. It seems to get a little more popular ever year.”
Michae said the organizers begin planning and preparing for Tricks or Cans in early September.
“We start pulling it together and getting the process of organizing people and neighborhoods and getting information out,” she said. “Then it picks up around now, and we get really, really busy.”
Scott said the organizers start making announcements at school about the third week of September or two weeks before fall break. Organizers spend that time recruiting group leaders. “We make an announcement to different organizations that if there are members wanting to lead a group, we are taking people.”
They assign the majority of neighborhoods prior to fall break, filling in as more people sign up to help.
As the temperatures have cooled, more people have shown enthusiasm for the initiative. “In September, Halloween is not what you’re thinking about. We’re tying to get last minute volunteers to lead some of the neighborhoods,” Scott said.
Michae said another challenge the organizers have is getting sponsors to pay for T-shirts and to give money to the Blount County Community Food Connection. They also organize all the neighborhoods and all of those individuals who will be working Halloween night. “We get fliers out that go to the houses and distribute whatever T-shirts the team leader needs.”
On Halloween night, all students involved will wear Trick of Cans T-shirts. “That way the residents know they are their for the canned goods, although people do get a little bit of candy out of it,” he said.
Scott said that on Halloween night 200 volunteers will cover 3,500 homes. “It’s a good number. We have groups going to Friendsville, all the way to Alcoa and across the board in Maryville. Most neighborhoods in Maryville will be covered,” he said. “We try to span as large an area as we can.”
Scott said this is one of the most crucial times for the Food Connection. “Right now, they’re feeding on average 100 families a day, and sometimes 130 families. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, they’re going through 300 bags of food every week, and we already provide the majority of food to go through Thanksgiving and Christmas. This season has been especially hard because of the economy,” he said.
Scott said many people who wouldn’t normally need help are asking for help. “I think this year people who can give should give generously. There are a lot of people who really need it. This helps get food to the Food Connection to distribute it around Blount County to people who really need it,” he said.
In addition to Scott and Michae, chairs of Trick or Cans promotion are Hunter Tipton, Sarah Delozier and David Ayers.