‘It’s become a belief here’: In eighth year, Conway students back food bank fundraiser

Aria Spiegel, a third grader at Conway Grammar School, holds a sign as she participates in a mini Monte’s March on Monday.

Aria Spiegel, a third grader at Conway Grammar School, holds a sign as she participates in a mini Monte’s March on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday.

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday.

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday.

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday.

Students and faculty at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini Monte’s March on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-21-2023 11:08 AM

CONWAY — With signs held high and loud chants, Conway Grammar School’s eighth annual mini Monte’s March signaled another year of thousands of dollars being raised for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The elementary school’s march coincides each year with Montague resident Christopher “Monte” Belmonte’s 43-mile charity walk from Springfield to Greenfield and provides a chance for students to join a cause that is bigger than themselves and their school. While the event’s name has been changed this year to the March for the Food Bank with Monte Belmonte, its mission remains the same: raising money in the name of eliminating food insecurity in the Pioneer Valley.

At Conway Grammar School, where Belmonte visited with students earlier this month, kids were excited to get outside on a chilly Monday after the school raised more than $3,700 this month.

“That’s a lot,” fifth grader Maddilynn Wallace said when told how much money they have raised. “It’s so great to see people are putting into getting food for other people.”

“That’s like, wow,” added fellow fifth grader, Shirah Cote. “It’s sort of amazing.”

As students walked the school’s half-mile driveway loop several times, they held handmade signs and chanted phrases like “Food for all!” and “Monte!” Three Conway Grammar School staff members also planned to join Belmonte on Tuesday to help finish off his walk to Greenfield, including speech language pathologist Jo Cyr-Mutty, who helped start the school’s tradition eight years ago.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

“It’s been wonderful to watch it grow,” Cyr-Mutty said, adding that the miniature march is an opportunity for students to use their voice and come together for a common goal, while also providing a new perspective on some of the challenges their friends and neighbors may be facing. “It’s gratifying to see because none of us ever know where we’ll be in the future.”

Principal Kristen Gordon said hunger is an ever-growing issue in the region and was further exacerbated by the pandemic. “We’re seeing it with our kids and we’re seeing it in the community,” she said. Each year, the students really buy into the message behind Belmonte’s march.

As the students finished their laps around the driveway, Gordon expressed her appreciation for the kids and how they strive to be community leaders.

“Our kids are very excited and support the cause,” Gordon said. “It’s such a great lesson for the students. It’s become a belief here.”

Third grader Aria Spiegel said marching is a great thing and that “no one” should have to go hungry.

“It makes me feel really happy because the people who don’t have food will get food,” Aria said.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.