SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – With Halloween less than a week away, kids across Central Florida are picking out costumes and planning their neighborhood routes.
This week’s Getting Results Award winner is doing that too, but for him, the night is as much about hunger as it is haunting.
When 15-year-old Daniel Sharkey walks up to a neighbor’s front door, he’s not asking for candy; he’s looking for cans. It’s all part of a project he calls, “Cans Over Candy.”
“I like Halloween. I’ve liked Halloween since I was little,” Daniel said. “But I never liked candy. I was a little kid and I hated candy and everyone thought it was crazy.”
So 5 years ago he and his family came up with another way to spend the holiday.
“We put out flyers about a week prior so that everyone has non-perishable items ready,” Daniel said. “And then we go around on Halloween, usually a little bit earlier than everyone else, and collect canned goods. And then a few days later, we drop them off at Second Harvest food bank.”
News 6 was there as Daniel made the first pass through his Seminole County neighborhood. With wagon in tow, he collected items his neighbors left for him on their porches.
“I’d usually be out here and there’s a mob of trick-or-treaters. I’ll have some friends around me. Everyone’s out, everyone sets up in their driveway to hand out candy. There will probably be 20 to 30 more houses that we stop by that have donations,” Daniel said, as he looked forward to Halloween night.
Daniel’s whole family helps out. His parents follow closely behind in their SUV so the boy can unload his wagon when it gets too full.
“We usually fill this up a few dozen times throughout the night,” Daniel said, looking down at his wagon which was already piled high with groceries.
“We volunteered at Second Harvest and we saw the need,” Daniel’s mom, Kelly Green said. “And then we thought what better way (to help) when we’re already going door to door, to collect things that families would need.”
That first year Daniel collected a hand full of non-perishable items but each year since the numbers have grown. Last year, Daniel dropped off more than 400 items. It’s become a bit of a tradition in the neighborhood.
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Dan Samuels, Director of Philanthropy for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida said Daniel couldn’t have picked a better time of year to help out.
“The need during the holidays is tremendous. It’s usually the biggest time of the year when it comes to food and luckily, it’s also when our community leans in to be able to help,” Samuels said. “So to see, Daniel, year after year now going out into the community collecting cans on Halloween, instead of candy to help his neighbors who are facing hunger is just inspiring to see.”
Jimmy Petrick lives across the street from Daniel.
“So we always have to have some cans on hand to give out because it’s a really great thing that he does,” Petrick said.
This year, Petrick used the QR code Daniel set up to donate virtually. The link allows donations to Cans Over Candy to be sent directly to Second Harvest Food Bank.
“It’s inspiring, you know, it brings hope,” Daniel said when asked about his neighbors’ generosity. “A lot of people, they just need help you know, in that moment or for a more prolonged period of time, just to help them get on their feet. Food is a major expense and to be able to help people put that money towards what they may need more at the time, it feels good.”
At the end of the night, when most children are going through their bags of candy, Daniel is sorting his haul as well.
“I love it, going through it, we have to check all the dates, we have to put it all in bags and drive it to the facility, which is great,” he said.
If you would like to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank through Cans Over Candy use this link.