Celebrating 25 Years: Cans History
Cans Around the Oval is an example of how one person can truly make a difference. It started with one person thinking of an idea, one person putting it into motion, and a community coming together to turn it into a tradition. In 1986 the Office of Community Services (OCS), which has now grow into the office of Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement (SLiCE), consisted one of graduate student and three work-study undergraduate students.
It was during this time that a graduate student, Victoria Keller, was hired to oversee the efforts of OSC. One afternoon, a journalism student asked Keller to read over a 2-page assignment she had written proposing a canned food drive, which sparked the fire for Cans Around the Oval. Keller, wanting to pursue the proposal, contacted the Food Bank’s then Director, Sandy Bowden who coined the name Cans Around the Oval. Although Sandy was too busy to be involved that first year, Keller and two other students decided to take on the efforts of orchestrating Cans Around the Oval.
The first Collection Day made a huge impact on the individuals organizing the event; each individual canned food item signified a step in the right direction. Their excitement spilled over into physically placing cans around CSU’s Oval. Although the cans could only line ¼ of the Oval, the enthusiasm surrounding their accomplishment was strong and would become a legacy for the next 25 years.
Keller ran CANS as a student for 2 years, and then submitted a proposal to grow OCS into a fully funded and staffed office. She was turned down. Not one to surrender, Keller and a few other students organized a student fee referendum and became a student fee funded office. She was hired after graduation and led CANS as well as the office until 2004. Along the way OCS became The Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, what is now SLiCE.
It started with one student wanting to make a difference; 25 years later over 16,000 people from the Colorado State University campus and local community are continuing the tradition and making it even more impactful every single year. Last year the Food Bank for Larimer County served over 30,000 individuals, almost doubling the amount from 2006. Despite such encouraging gains, hunger frequently strikes the most vulnerable people in our communities, especially children. 1 in 5 kids in our community are not receiving enough food to meet their daily nutritional needs. These numbers serve to highlight how much this program is still needed today. Cans Around the Oval’s growth is truly inspiring. An idea that was sparked from a class assignment has now become part of Colorado State University’s history. One person can change people’s lives and every year thousands of people come to the Oval to do just that.