Less than a week-and-a-half ago Ardmore Cities in Schools Summer Camp staff decided to add a lesson in helping others to the seven week curriculum conducted at St. Mary Catholic Church. The idea was to have campers collect cans of food. The beneficiary of collection effort? St. Mary's food pantry.

Each camper was asked to do their part by collecting cans of food and bringing them to camp. Notes were sent home encouraging parents to help campers in their quest. A large poster promoting the campaign was also prominently displayed at the camp to keep the project front and center in the minds of the students.

The final ingredient to encourage participation? A little fun.

"To add a little friendly competition between classes, we said the winning class would get a pizza party," said Sara Kerley, CIS Executive Director.

Kerley expected the combination of the hands-on lesson of giving and friendly competition to produce a moderate amount of food. But what she expected, wasn't even close to the end result.

Cans began trickling in. The trickle became a steady stream. The stream became a rolling river and wave upon wave of canned food flowed through the doors.

By Wednesday afternoon, just eight days after the campaign was launched, 1,069 cans of food had been collected.

"It has been incredible — the outpouring from the community was just great. Some kids brought in a hundred cans by themselves and one of the (teenage) counselors brought in 200 cans," Kerley said.

The winner of the "friendly" competition? The kindergartners but, Kerley said, "preschool was very close behind."

Ryan Hunnicutt, St. Mary spokesman, said the church program aimed at feeding the hungry, was thrilled and awed by the campaign.

"This is the third year CIS has used St. Mary facilities for the summer camp. They have always been gracious and commendable tenants, but this year the generosity of the students and staff has truly been overwhelming. It represents the kind, caring and loving hearts, minds and spirits of the the students, the administration and the staff. We could be happier," he said. "Sara Kerley has really transformed this program into something positive and good that the entire community can be proud of."