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Student’s project targets hunger

Emily Olson, a senior at Superior High School, sits with some of the items she’s collected for her fundraiser for the NOW program which will be at Barker’s Island Inn on Sunday. (Jed Carlson/

It takes a village to ensure no child goes hungry.

Every weekend, dozens of homeless children in Douglas County rely on a backpack full of food. The Nutrition On Weekends program hands out 95 backpacks a week to students — 70 in Superior and 25 in Solon Springs school districts.

“Tons of people don’t know how many kids go home and don’t have anything,” said Superior High School senior Emily Olson. That’s why NOW is so vital, she said.

The food program relies on community donations and word-of-mouth to fill those backpacks each week. Sunday, Olson hopes to raise money and awareness for NOW during an event aimed at feeding the hungry.

“What a great young woman,” said Cindy Theien, mortgage banker with National Bank of Commerce and one of the founders of NOW.

The program was launched in 2010 by employees of National Bank of Commerce. It remains strong because of support from organizations, businesses, individuals and students like Olson.

“We’re happy the program is out there and we have it available to those who need it,” Theien said. “It is unfortunate the need is there, but I’m glad we can help.”

Olson tackled some hurdles as she prepared for Sunday’s fundraiser. It was a challenge to schedule the event in the midst of her high school dance team competitions. She also had to give a speech to the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.

“It actually wasn’t that bad,” she said, when it was all said and done.

The community has been supportive of Olson’s cause. A wide array of silent auction and raffle prizes wait to be won. They include a Nook, a signed Packer football, Brett Favre bobbleheads, hotel stays, gift cards, a UWS 2014-15 season pass, baskets and gift certificates.

“Emily’s got some very wonderful things donated,” Theien said. “She might pull out some surprises, too.”

Along with appetizers and punch, Olson hopes to provide entertainment at the event, which is also her senior project. As a graduation requirement, all Superior High School seniors must complete a project in one of three categories. They can research a career, learn a new skill or coordinate a community project.

“Instead of researching a career I felt I wanted to do something more hands-on to actually help someone else,” Olson said.

The teen is the third student to focus the senior project on NOW, according to Theien.

The senior project is beneficial to other students, Theien said. It opens their eyes to things in the community, “problems, issues, things they can help out with.”

One of the past NOW supporters was Olson’s older brother, Taylor. His efforts, in part, spurred hers.

“I realized most people don’t know much about it,” Olson said. So she decided to change that.

Sunday’s event runs 2-5 p.m. in the Barker’s Island Inn ballroom, 300 Marina Drive. Admission is $10 at the door or $8 with a nonperishable food donation. Olson said she hopes to raise $1,000 for NOW. That would feed area children for nearly a month, according to Nicky Wilson, family services coordinator for the Superior school district. Olson is also still accepting prizes for the event. To contact her, call 218-269-4088.

Those who can’t stop by Sunday can still help. Monetary donations for the NOW program can be dropped off at any National Bank of Commerce branch.