Seattle Foundation Blog

Soup Like No Other

Soup4Simpson raises money for homeless youth in remembrance of Hunter Simpson, a caring Bellevue High student who continues to inspire


April 02, 2019

By Kristin Dizon, Managing Director, Communications

What is the nature of soup? Warm, liquid nourishment or comfort in a cup?

For Hunter Simpson, a teen with a larger-than-life presence and megawatt smile, soup was a way of expressing love for others.

On a recent spring day, that love was returned by the Bellevue High School community, which held its 14th annual Soup4Simpson fundraiser. Hundreds of students poured into the school’s atrium to go through a soup line where they received a cup of clam chowder, chicken noodle or tomato soup for free. In exchange, the kids are asked to donate their lunch money, or more, to benefit New Horizons, a nonprofit that helps youth experiencing homelessness to find stability, employment and housing.

Bellevue High Students line up for the Soup4Simpson fundraiser.

In addition to Soup4Simpson, the R. Hunter Simpson Foundation at Seattle Foundation makes grants to causes that Hunter supported and funds two college scholarships a year for students in need from Bellevue High School.

The amazing thing is that Hunter Simpson has been gone for nearly 15 years, but his spirit clearly lives on. Most of the kids at Bellevue High were toddlers when Hunter passed away in December 2005 at the age of 18 from a malignant brain tumor. But, it’s as if Hunter’s aura still fills these halls.

As she served soup to others, volunteer Gloriya Plenkina, 17, a junior, said, “Our goal is to just be a little bit like Hunter every day. He gave so much of himself to others.”

Senior Kaylub Trusedale, 18, said Soup4Simpson is a big deal. “It’s something we take pride in at Bellevue High School. We try to give back to the community,” he said. “Everybody’s really into it. They’re passionate and energetic about it.”

About 65 students put in hundreds of service hours planning the event, making the flyers, posters, and videos, baking the cookies, ladling the soup and counting the dollars.

Most of the kids in this school of more than 1,500 know Hunter’s story well. They can tell you how Hunter was a popular lacrosse player who wore crazy socks on Fridays and

A portrait of Hunter Simpson, along with his lacrosse jersey.

made everyone feel like they were a friend. They will share that despite being tired from chemotherapy, Hunter’s irrepressible curiosity and thirst to learn never dampened. They will let you know that during Hunter’s first and only quarter at Trinity Western College in British Columbia, he bought the cheapest thing he could find on the menu for every meal – soup – and saved up as much money as possible on his meal plan.At the end of the quarter, Hunter bought non-perishable food with the meal plan balance and delivered it to the New Horizons shelter in downtown Seattle. Hunter, a deeply spiritual person who hoped to be a minister, died one week later, on New Year’s Eve 2005.

The reason they know his story is because of Kathy Adams, the school’s accounting teacher for more than 43 years. Adams has taught many a current student’s parents. While she never taught Hunter, she had his younger brother in her class, and reading Hunter’s obituary and his soup-fueled generosity changed things for her.

“I could just not get that story out of my head. I thought this is not an average teenager,” she said. “He just was this great guy who was friends with everybody. Everyone loved him. As another teacher said, ‘There’s nobody that walked the halls like Hunter.’”

Within a few months, Adams rallied her students to create Soup4Simpson in tribute to Hunter. It’s been held every year since 2006, raising more than $85,000 for New Horizons to date.

That first year, no one could have predicted the response. “I didn’t know what kind of turnout we would get. It blew our minds,” said Brooks Simpson, Hunter’s father. “It’s the fastest fundraiser in the West. Over 1,000 kids come rushing through the line and it’s all over in 20 minutes.”

Roaming the serving tables, Adams is like a general in battle: put those napkins out; stack the soup cups; is the donation box ready; where are the cookies?

She pauses and says, “I keep thinking if we get to $100,000 this year, we need to shoot fireworks.”

Students collect donations for Soup4Simpson  Students collect donations for Soup4Simpson.

Assistant principal Bret Cochrun said he’s never seen a school event with so much spirit and support. “Most students show up. That’s the success of it, not just the money raised. It’s like a heartbeat check on our school,” he said.

And so the Bellevue High heart beats strong for Hunter, a child who spent his Saturday mornings since middle school making bagged lunches of hot dogs, cookies, water and fruit to deliver to the homeless in the Pioneer Square area. True to his nature, for his Make-A-Wish Foundation gift, Hunter asked the organization to purchase a pool table and new furniture for the homeless youth served by New Horizons.

“There’s an amazing staying power with Hunter. What he did with the Make-A-Wish gift was an amazing act of compassion and generosity. Young people see that and they realize it’s not hard to give their lunch money,” said Rob Stewart, executive director of New Horizons.

By the end of the day, Adams’ accounting students had totaled up the in-person donations, the online ones, and some bigger gifts from parents or former classmates of Hunter’s.
In year 14, on March 20, 2019, Soup4Simpson raised $13, 874.44, bringing the cumulative total to $98,001.44.

Time to start planning the fireworks for next year.

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