CARY — The voices grew so loud, they blended together, becoming a dull roar.
“Cody, Cody, Cody,” the students chanted in unison, slapping their hands to their knees and stomping their feet. Then, silence.
Cody Simpson – the Justin Bieber for the next generation – had arrived at Davis Drive Middle School.
The moment had been a long time in coming.
Monday’s concert was the school’s reward for collecting the most candy for Operation North State in the “Candy4Cody” contest and Pulse 102 radio stations WWPL-FM and WPLW-FM.
The 828 pounds of candy will be distributed by Operation North State to soldiers and their families overseas and in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg.
Many candy bars before, the drive began with an email message sent by three eighth-grade students to Principal Karen Summers after hearing about the contest on the radio.
With less than a week until the contest deadline, students Olivia Segreto, Cassidy Yelincic and Maureen Whittelsey launched a campaign to collect as much candy as possible, reaching out to local businesses and rallying their peers to donate.
Summers said the girls’ organization is a testament to the power of all students at the school to step up and achieve anything they set their minds to.
“What these three ladies have done is something that every one of our students can do,” Summers said. “It has had a positive impact on our school climate and culture. Our kids are true leaders not only in the classroom, but in the community.”
At first, the students collected the candy in black cafeteria trashcans in the front office. When it took over the office, Maureen moved the candy to her house.
“It was torturous,” said Olivia. “You wanted to eat it, but you knew you couldn’t. I said to myself, ‘No, Olivia stay away from that room.’ ”
Snickers and Tootsie Rolls, Dubble Bubble and Reese’s: The candy formed a pile 3 feet high.
It accumulated quickly, some bought from donated store gift cards and more brought in by parents and students.
A weighed-down van
When the girls took it to the radio station, it weighed down Maureen’s mother’s minivan so much that they feared the tires would blow.
Terry Snyder, chairman of Operation North State, said when he saw the candy laid out on the concrete, he was amazed.
“The thing that is rewarding is that the Raleigh community reached out to North State,” he said. “That was very humbling for us.”
It was about more than winning the contest, Snyder added. The girls really wanted to help. Simpson was just the icing on the cake.
As Simpson sang in the auditorium, the girls waved their arms and sang along. The boys initially sighed; then craned their necks to get a better look.
He played four songs, ending just in time for the last bell of the day. The roar consumed the gymnasium. As students moved toward their buses, one stopped in front of Elizabeth Crowell, a sixth-grade teacher.
“Ms. Crowell, that was Cody Simpson,” he said. “Omigod.”