Students at Jackson P. Burley Middle School and Leslie H. Walton Middle School walk to collect cans for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

There’s about 2,000 steps in a mile. At Jackson P. Burley Middle School and Leslie H. Walton Middle School, there’s about 2,000 steps and exactly 10 cans.

For the past two years, Burley has spearheaded the event, holding basketball games as a fundraiser by taking nonperishable donations in lieu of admission. In 2018, the school collected around 1,400 pounds of canned goods. In 2019, the school’s “A Ton and We’re Done” fundraiser collected a literal ton of canned goods.

Cans are stored at Burley Middle School before being donated to the Blue Ridge Food Bank.

This year’s theme, “Walking Miles with Smiles Because We're Using Our Feet to Help Others Eat,” is aiming to get “as many [cans] as we can get,” according to Harold Boyd, Burley's in-school suspension coordinator, basketball and track coach, and the organizer of the food drive.

The food drive to promote volunteerism and giving back to the community among students looks a little different this year, though.

“This year, all middle school sports came to a halt because of the pandemic, but we decided to put our athletes to work and help us raise food,” Mr. Boyd said. That’s where the idea of sponsoring walking came together.

“If everybody gives a little bit, it adds up eventually,” Rebekah Pistulka, a Burley student athlete participating in the food drive, said.

For every mile that a student walks or runs, they collect 10 canned goods to donate to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Jaelyn Wood, a student at Walton, has run about 35 miles since Dec. 2. 

“Knowing that I’m running for people that don’t have food is what has been my motivation,” she said. 

But it isn’t all hard work for the students, though. At the end of their walk, they’ll be rewarded with a pizza party.

Mr. Boyd holds a Burley Middle School #ChallengeAccepted t-shirt.

“We teach our young people that they are part of this community, they get from this community, and they need to give back to this community,” Mr. Boyd said.

And the students have taken that message to heart.

When asked to walk and gather cans for the fundraiser, Derrius Jones, a student at Burley, joined in without a second thought. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

This year, the food drive raised 2,376 pounds of food, exactly 300 pounds more than last year.

For more on this story, see additional coverage by CBS19 and NBC29.