Why has Palatine food pantry scavenger hunt grown ninefold in 10 years? 'Kids love it'
An annual food pantry scavenger hunt in Palatine will travel through a record 95-block radius on its 10th anniversary next week, representing a ninefold increase since the inaugural effort to benefit those less fortunate.
Volunteers this week will drop off flyers at more than 2,100 homes reminding residents of the scavenger hunt, set from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 23.
Palatine Township's food pantry again will be the beneficiary of the drive, which attracted about 475 participants last year. The flyers say the pantry is low on items and especially needs crackers, soup, juice, peanut butter, cereal, baby wipes, pasta sauce, coffee, tea, soap and paper grocery bags.
Kim Saxe and her husband, Dave, started the scavenger hunt in 2010 with a small group of friends, neighbors, and teammates and classmates of the their two oldest children. It began with volunteers working 10 blocks around the couple's South Hale Street house, which served as the collection point.
Part of the fun is how children tote red wagons to collect the food in their family's designated blocks. Kim Saxe said it's important for the kids to participate in a hands-on community service project.
"We gave it a try," Kim Saxe said, "and it has always worked. Kids love it. Teenagers love it. My older kids are in high school and they have always gotten tons of their friends to come."
Having outgrown the Saxes' front yard, the hunt's collection point this year will be Pleasant Hill Elementary School on Illinois Avenue in Palatine. Food will be loaded onto trucks by volunteers, which include members of the Palatine Jaycees, Boy and Girl Scout troops, Fremd High School sports teams, and youth softball and baseball squads.
Palatine resident Nicole Chepulis said her family participated for the first time last year and "had a blast" after getting paired with another family to hunt for the food.
"I wasn't expecting much going in except to help the community," Chepulis said.
After remaining a modest operation the first few years, the food scavenger hunt took a leap to 30 blocks in 2017 and reached 85 last year.
With Willow Creek Community Church as the conduit, the Saxes' food pantry scavenger hunt idea was copied in Barrington for the first time last year. Barrington resident Brent Hendon was introduced to Kim Saxe and the Palatine organizers helped him get it going.
Hendon said the inaugural Barrington scavenger hunt benefited FISH Food Pantry in Carpentersville and covered a 10-block radius on Barrington's south side. He said this year's hunt is set for Sept. 29.
"We had more kids helping last year than adults," Hendon said. "That's definitely the goal."