Some said it couldn’t be done, that his goals were unrealistic.
Ken Blanchard now has the right to say, “I told you so.”
Six years ago, Blanchard, an Edward Jones employee, began the Bag-a-Thon food drive in his hometown of Oro Valley and surrounding areas. As word has spread about the cause, the amount of food donated each year has continued to grow, capped off by this year’s ever-impressive numbers.
Last year, Blanchard and volunteers managed to raise 42,000 pounds of food. Leading into this year’s drive, which runs annually between Oct. 3 and Nov. 3, Blanchard set his sights on raising 50,000 pounds, all food going to Interfaith Community Services, which serves the need of low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals.
“In passing, someone said that was an unattainable goal,” said Blanchard. “I said, ‘Watch closely.’”
Not only was the goal attainable, it was easily surpassable.
“We had a remarkable turnout,” said Blanchard. “We finished with 70,165 pounds of food, which is about 40 percent more than our original goal.”
More than 15,000 additional pounds were collected for the communities of Marana, Sierra Vista, Green Valley, Bisbee, and Yuma.
What makes the final numbers even more awe-inspiring is the fact that just one week before the food drive was to end, only about 10,000 pounds had been collected.
“The schools really came through big,” said Blanchard.
Ironwood Ridge dropped off 9,500 pounds of food, while other significant donations came from Canyon Del Oro High School, Copper Creek Elementary, Basis Oro Valley, Basis Tucson North, Thornydale Elementary, and Cross Middle School.
The Tucson Dance Academy added another 1,000 pounds, while the local Boy and Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls donated a cumulative 7,000 pounds.
Fry’s Food Store made a 2,000-pound contribution. The Town of Oro Valley and several community members also made significant contributions.
“Having lived here in Tucson and Oro Valley, I realize how fabulous our community is,” said Blanchard.
Blanchard saw the community’s generosity on Halloween night, when an unusual coincidence occurred.
“Here I am on Halloween, and the doorbell rings, and I think these kids are trick-or-treating, and I start to give them candy, and they say, “We are collecting cans for the Bag-a-Thon,” said Blanchard. “My kids went and emptied our cabinets. That put a smile on my face. The whole point is to make our community better, and when you get kids involved, how can you go wrong? And not only the kids, but the support of the parents as well. It’s a great community project, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. I cannot thank the people enough that worked on this. There isn’t enough space to thank everyone that made this possible.”
Though Blanchard will likely set next year’s goal even higher, he has not yet determined exactly what that number will be.
“I promised my wife I would not talk about Bag-a-Thon for a while,” Blanchard joked.
Next year’s drive will, as usual, run from Oct. 3- Nov. 3. Food donations can be dropped off at any Edward Jones office during that period.