For Desert Vista High School ceramics educator Mark Honaker, there is no greater purpose for artwork than to help someone else coping with a tragic circumstance.
It is in that spirit that Honaker and a “Bowl Patrol” of about a dozen students escorted more than 60 soup bowls – all created by Desert Vista ceramics students – on foot nearly 12 miles to the Tempe Public Library Feb. 20 for the ninth annual Tempe Empty Bowls charity event.
Departing from Desert Vista High School at 6 a.m., the convoy embarked east on Chandler Boulevard, before turning north on Rural Road all the way to the library’s Southern Avenue location in Tempe. Students took turns pulling the dolly toward their destination, selling bowls during stops near Fry’s, Starbucks and other local spots along the way.
By the time “Bowl Patrol” arrived at the Tempe Public Library at 11 a.m., it had been raining for about an hour.
“It got a little chilly,” Honaker said. “But (it was) a character building moment.”
As the Tempe Community Action Agency handled sales for the bowls, the students received free T-shirts and soup for their contributions.
This year marked the ninth annual Tempe Empty Bowls event and the fourth time Honaker’s students walked the bowls to Tempe.
“I thought it was a neat opportunity to get a little more community involvement in the event and heighten the awareness of what we were doing,” Honaker said.
He said his students don’t walk 12 miles just for the sake of walking 12 miles, though.
“To get any teenager up at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday is almost an impossible task,” Honaker said.
Although Desert Vista is part of the Tempe Union High School District, Honaker said its Phoenix location makes it hard for students to be tuned into events going on in nearby communities, like the Tempe Empty Bowls event. Through walking the bowls themselves, he said, “that allowed us to bring our community here a little closer to the event.”
“I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun,” Honaker said, adding that the sentiment was infused in the club’s other activities, including during “cosmic bowling” on Jan. 23, when students created bowls for the Tempe event in the dark.
Junior Lauren Johnson created seven bowls in an hour-and-a-half during cosmic bowling.
“It sounded like a really fun event ... like it was helping a good cause,” she said. “I actually got more work done than in usual class.”
Sales from the bowls benefited the Tempe Community Action Agency and the United Food Bank. According to the TCAA’s Web site, the event raised more than $15,000 and garnered hunger awareness. There was another sale at Sixth Street Park on Feb. 19.
All in all, Honaker’s students produced more than 430 bowls to benefit Tempe Empty Bowls, most of which had been delivered before the walk. One student, junior Jake Elledge, made more than 100 bowls.
“It’s a wonderful way for me to be able to do service doing something I love,” said senior James Skidmore, who made 11 pots for Empty Bowls.
This isn’t the only charity project from the Clay Club; Honaker said the group raises an average of $20,000 a year for various charities, including ones for New York after Sept. 11, the Red Cross and recently for Haiti.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to feel good about the time they spend in the classroom,” Honaker said. “They’re not just working for grade, but they’re helping others within their community.”
Christopher Ogino is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a junior at Arizona State University.