Radford surpasses canned food drive goal, collects more than 15,000 items for schoolchildren

The Radford University family once again exemplified the Highlander spirit through community service and civic engagement this week as they collected thousands of canned food items for underserved schoolchildren.

From Oct. 16-17, students, faculty, staff and university administrators donated more than 15,000 food items as part of the Radford Gives Back canned food drive. The donations help replenish Bobcat Backpacks, a local nonprofit organization founded in 2016 by three alumnae: Daniela Brunner '96, Jenny Riffe '03 and Jane Fisher '94, '00. The program provides 175 Radford City Public Schools (RCPS) students with weekend food during the school year and over the summer.

“Radford Gives Back means everything to us. It’s enormous,” said Riffe at the Oct. 17 packing celebration. “Being able to depend on this food drive means that we can feed kids in need. We love this town and gown relationship. The Radford University community cares enough to do this drive again and again.”

The fundraiser, now in its third year, was first introduced in 2016 during the week of President Brian O. Hemphill’s inauguration. Upon arrival to the university, President Hemphill and his wife, First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, made community service and partnerships a priority. Radford Gives Back is now a proud tradition of the university and is organized by co-chairs Lee Stewart and Teresa Dickens, with assistance from Student Life and Student Affairs.

This year, the drive exceeded its goal of 15,000 donations – 15,467 items were donated. Sixty-five volunteers collected and sorted the food donations on Oct. 16-17, and more than 300 volunteers packed bags on Oct. 17 in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

As donations continued to trickle in before the big packing event, Dickens expressed gratitude for all those who helped make the drive a success.

“The support has been great,” she said. “We’ve received donations from several different departments, clubs and organizations. It’s really been a group effort.”


The First Lady was the keynote speaker at the packing celebration. She gave special thanks to Stewart and Dickens, as well as the Bobcat Backpacks founding “trio” for their leadership and dedication to the university and the Radford community.

“Radford Gives Back is truly an inspirational event for all of us,” First Lady Hemphill said. “It represents a community service project in the truest form. It is an event that binds us together, and it is a project that inspires us to help others.”

She encouraged students to engage in the community and to seek out ways to support each other.

“At a time in our society where there is a divide that seems to grow with each passing day, be someone who unites others,” she said. “Be someone who pays it forward. Be someone who serves as an example for others. Your gestures of kindness will allow you to unite others. The world needs more individuals who think of others and look to the future. Be part of establishing a future where fewer are in need. Be part of something special. For many of you, that begins right here on this campus.”

On behalf of Radford City schools, RCPS Superintendent Robert Graham thanked the Radford University community for their continued support of the Bobcat Backpacks program and the school system.

“You are making a tremendous impact,” he said.

As superintendent, Graham said, he sees first-hand how hunger affects the behavior of some schoolchildren.

“They are distracted. They act out. They don’t perform at the level they should,” he said. “But because of Bobcat Backpacks, students come to school nourished and ready to learn.”

Following the program, volunteers packed 300 bags with a portion of the donated food items – enough to provide food for two weekends. The bags and the rest of the donations were then loaded onto a truck and taken to a nearby church where volunteers gather each week to organize and pack the food.

Among the many student volunteers were members of the university’s club lacrosse team. Team member Zoe Moffett, a sophomore from Richmond, called the drive “a great experience that brings us all together.”

“It stays with you, especially since it’s so hands-on,” said Moffett, who spent two days counting, collecting and sorting the food. “To know that we are directly impacting the lives of children is so exciting and uplifting.”

Oct 18, 2018
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150