PEPPERELL -- While many celebrate the Super Bowl by cheering for their favorite teams and eating snacks in front of the television, Varnum Brook fourth-grader Riley McManus translated his love for football into a plan to help others.
McManus organized a "Souper Bowl" canned food drive at Varnum Brook the week of the football game, bringing in 470 cans for the Pepperell Aid from Community to Home food pantry.
"I just wanted people to be able to get as much food as they can," McManus said as the cans were picked up from the school by a PACH representative on Feb. 10.
McManus said he chose to use the culmination of the season of one of his favorite sports as an opportunity to get his fellow students excited about collecting the food.
"I'm a big fan of football, and I was hoping that I could do something to celebrate," McManus said. He said he had heard of "Souper Bowls" being held in other locations and wanted to bring the same idea to his school.
After writing a letter to the administration explaining the project, and getting permission from Dr. Pauline Cormier, the school's principal, McManus was given the go-ahead to start collecting canned goods.
The week of the Super Bowl, announcements were made in school each day asking students to contribute to the cause.
By the end of the week, McManus and Varnum Brook students from every grade had racked up the 470 cans.
Guidance Counselor Kevin Nelson said the school holds canned food drives a few times a year. Sometimes, he said, students propose their own project, such as McManus.
Nelson said he enjoys seeing students trying to help others, especially through organizations like PACH that directly benefit the Pepperell community.
"I like the idea of our students thinking about other people. Kids like this are going to change the world, and hopefully, make it safer for everybody," Nelson said.
PACH serves about 50 families in Pepperell, who can pick up pre-packed food baskets with a variety of groceries twice a month.
Donations are accepted year round at PACH's offices at the former Peter Fitzpatrick School.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.