CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Students at Saint Matthew Catholic School in Champaign got a little extra help from some Illini football players in their mission to Tackle Hunger.

Students, faculty members and players all helped load the donations from their food drive. They collected food items for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank and their Tackle Hunger campaign. This is the second year the school partnered with the Fighting Illini to help raise awareness about food insecurity.

They got more than 10,000 food items last year. This year, the goal was 15,000 — and they more than doubled it. The students collected 36,616 canned goods.

“St. Matthew has been incredible. They are such a well-oiled machine,” EIF Director Amanda Borden said. “The kids and their families have been so supportive and so incredible and so motivated to really put everything they had into this project. It really made a huge impact on the community.”

Each grade or class had an Illini football captain cheering them on. Captains would send encouraging videos to their teams to raise as many donations as they could.

“It was a great experience overall,” said Illini Football Player Alec Bryant. “It just brings some joy to these kids. You know, everybody’s helping together, pitching in and giving food for the people who can’t afford it. It’s just good to see.”

It was a lot of fun for both students and players, but only one grade could come out victorious.

“So it was all our pre-K through 8th grade students that participated,” Principal Michelle Biggs said. “The winning grade level, which [includes] these two kindergartners here, John and Gabby, their classes in Kindergarten get to go to the Smith Center next Monday and have a pizza party with the 15 Illini football players.”

Now, they’re looking forward to beating their classmates again next year, and to surpass this year’s goal.