Students at Denali Elementary School lined up to receive a fresh cooked meal from volunteers and school staff during Wednesday’s eighth annual Thanksgiving lunch.

This year, over 300 students enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a wide array of cookies and sweet treats.

“They all dressed their best today, and they are sitting down together as a class to give thanks and have a meal together,” said Denali Elementary principal Becky Zaverl. “Kids wore suits today, they are just so excited.”

Denali, which has grades K-6, was founded 70 years ago. The school’s annual Thanksgiving celebration started in 2014.

“It was started by a previous principal Debby Hall who wanted our kids at Denali to have a big Thanksgiving lunch together,” Zaverl said. “It’s just all about giving the kids a great Thanksgiving lunch today.”

“What’s even more warming is the adults that are so excited to be here for the kids,” Zaverl said, referencing the 40 plus volunteers who served lunch.

“It’s super fun just seeing all the kids, giving them desserts and seeing them eat food, all the music, it’s fun,” said Tona Perez, a first time volunteer with True North Church.

During the festivities, students gave thanks for their friends and family and sang along to lively performances from the Lathrop High School jazz band and show choir.

“I’m thankful for Thanksgiving and my family,” said fourth grade Denali Elementary student Anna.

“I’m thankful for food, water and my family,” added fourth grade student Jack.

Zaverl said the annual event would not be possible without support from the community. “This is a huge community effort,” she explained.

This year, True North Church prepared and served the Thanksgiving fare, Northrim Bank donated the turkeys and Raven’s Landing provided desserts.

It took 16 turkeys to feed the students, according to True North Church pastor Mark Zweifel.

“This is our eighth year of doing the Thanksgiving feast for the kids. We get all the food donated and then we make it happen,” Zweifel said. “We serve, clean up and then we go out and have fun together, do some bowling and stuff.”

“It’s incredible, we love the interim principal Mrs. Zaverl, the staff is awesome — they love it and the kids love it, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

Contact Liv Clifford at 459-7582, or follow her at

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