Brandon Teague, a member of The Marching Virginians, typically plays his trumpet for the approximately 66,000 people who crowd into Lane Stadium in the fall to watch the Hokies.

However, on Nov. 13, before heading inside the stadium, he played some familiar Virginia Tech tunes, such as “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, for tailgaters.

He performed, alongside fellow band members, in exchange for canned food or monetary donations for the annual Hokies for the Hungry food drive.

“We’re performing as an incentive to give,” said Teague, a senior majoring in theatre arts. “We’re also just wanting to make a difference as best we can, so we’re really excited to see what we can accomplish.”

Hokies for the Hungry has been a tradition for more than 25 years. The Marching Virginians partner with organizations throughout the New River Valley, including New Life Christian Fellowship and the Montgomery County Christmas Store, to provide a variety of donations for those in need.

This year, the band topped its collection efforts, raising approximately $20,000 and gathering more than 20,000 food items, the highest totals in the event’s history.

“It started out as a pretty simple canned food drive,” said Polly Middleton, director of The Marching Virginians. “It still is a simple food drive, too. However, we also take donations of cash and donations from Venmo or PayPal, so people are able to give in that way as well.”

“It’s a great service to the community,” she said. “It also focuses right here on Southwest Virginia, which I think is important.”

The Marching Virginians performed for tailgaters on Nov. 13, raising money for the annual Hokies for the Hungry food drive.
The Marching Virginians performed for tailgaters on Nov. 13, raising money for the annual Hokies for the Hungry food drive. Photo by Thomas Miller.

All food and monetary donations from Hokies for the Hungry go to the Montgomery County Christmas Store, located in Christiansburg. The store takes donations and purchases new items, such as clothes, toiletries, and toys, and sells them at discounted prices.

Hokies for the Hungry originated from Tau Beta Sigma, a band service sorority, and has evolved overtime to include The Marching Virginians.

“This year we decided that since [Tau Beta Sigma] started Hokies for the Hungry, we should be a lot more involved,” said Callie Ayala, head manager for The Marching Virginians and president and public relations representative for Tau Beta Sigma. “So, we kind of took over the event.”

An hour or two before the game, The Marching Virginians split up into eight groups and dispersed to different tailgates located around Lane Stadium. At each tailgate, they asked if tailgaters would like for them to play a favorite song. Once they played the song, the band members collected the canned food or monetary donations.

“We specifically pick the football game right before Thanksgiving because the canned food items are put together in packages,” Middleton said. “Families that may need help affording the ingredients they would need for Thanksgiving can come get a turkey along with canned and nonperishable items.”

The Nov. 13 Virginia Tech versus Duke University game was the last home game of the season. It was also one of the coldest games this year, at about 40 degrees. The cold didn’t stop the Marching Virginians from enjoying performing for the fans at the tailgates.

Hokies for the Hungry took place last year during COVID-19, but since tailgating was not allowed, the food drive was executed differently. Last year, the band members collected about 6,000 cans of food independently.

This year, the band was determined to outshine previous years. The band collected 17,541 cans of food before Nov. 13.

“We were able to collect more than double the cans we have ever collected,” said Gillian Murphy, manager for the Marching Virginians and vice president for service for Tau Beta Sigma.

Written by Gabby Taylor ’22, University Relations intern