During a November food drive, Mrs. Donelli’s sixth-grade class collected more cans than any other classroom at Consumnes River Elementary School.
The class was awarded a pizza party, but rather than having that party the students opted to instead give the pizza to those who needed it more.
"I came up to a woman who was sitting and she had a tarp, just a small piece of plastic, draped over her head," said volunteer Chuck Marshall.
Volunteering for years feeding the homeless out on the streets, Marshall told Mrs. Donelli’s class some of the struggles he’s seen.
"And I lifted the cardboard and under the cardboard was a 2-year-old," Marshall explained.
A mother and son in need were who the class has gone above and beyond to help.
"We brought 514 cans," said sixth-grader Gabriel Viegas.
This was the largest contribution of cans the Elk Grove Food Bank received from any other classroom in the district.
“That’s extremely high," explained Sidney Smith with the Elk Grove Food Bank. "On average, most classes will give a can or two per kid.”
It was an accomplishment that came with a prize: a pizza party for the entire class. But the kids didn’t want it.
"We just thought we were really fortunate and we can get a pizza, like, anytime," said sixth-grader Devyn Fain.
Instead, they voted to give the pizza to the homeless.
"I know that people who need it more than us are in the cold right now," said sixth-grader Trinity Hayduk.
"It makes me feel like I did what I could and help them as best as we could," Gabriel explained.
Some of the students didn’t stop there. Daisy Maranise and Maya Pecotich sold hot chocolate in their neighborhood for several hours this week and donated the $60 they raised to the food bank.
"We did a lot to raise money, and I thought we could do even more," Maya said.
"Just giving back is a good feeling," Daisy said.
For Marshall, it’s a gesture of good will he knows will change lives.
"The reason why this is also kind of dear to me is because at one time in my life I was homeless," Marshall said.
He says it was a friend bringing food, who, after a heart to heart talk, convinced him to turn his life around.
Sharing his stories with the students gave him hope that when he’s gone a new generation will continue his cause.
"When someone reaches out for no reason other than altruism, that will move you," Marshall said. "Changes your life. We can change people’s lives if we just reach out to them.”