HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The crowd was bigger than usual -  and younger - at last week's Township Committee meeting as students from Auten Road Intermediate School came forward to receive a proclamation from Mayor Carl Suraci for their "souper" job supporting the township food bank.

Auten Road Intermediate School's Teams 5J & 5K participated in a contest last month in which students were asked to bring in cans of soup to be donated to the Hillsborough Township's Community Assistance Network.  

The contest yielded 2,214 cans for the Community Assistance Network, exceeding the total of 2,155 cans collected the previous year.

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Four teams of fifth graders were divided into two teams, led by 5J homeroom teachers Diane Lyons and Carrie Sanchez (Atlantia Falcons) and 5K homeroom teachers Beth Raff and Mindi Andreski (New England Patriots).

The winners of the competition were the Team 5J Falcons who collected 1,284 total cans, but Lyons emphasized there were no losers, because everyone who competed contributed to the overall total.

“The kids are so proud, our goal always is to top the previous year,” Lyons said.

“What’s great about it is that you’re able to put that element of competition out there, but the focus the whole time is helping the community,” Lyons added.

“Truly all the students were winners by embracing the life lesson of giving back to their community,” said Kia Bergman, Community Outreach Coordinator for Hillsborough Schools.

One student spent his own money to purchase cans; another went to Weis and ShopRite supermarkets in town and asked for gift certificates, which they used to purchase soup. The mother of one student matched what her son spent to purchase soup cans and one student, who Sanchez characterized as “very shy,” went door-to-door in her neighborhood collecting donations.

“Her parents were so proud of her, to be able to do that, it was a good experience for her,” Sanchez said. “They sent us a touching e-mail about the outcome.”

Lyons introduced the competition to Auten School, borrowing the idea from her son’s school in South Brunswick, which has hosted a “Souper-Bowl” for seven years.

Lyons and her colleagues are also proud to note that the students were motivated by giving, caring and sharing.

There were no trophies.