On the final day before their Thanksgiving break, students at Washburn Institute of Technology on Tuesday participated in the seventh annual Turkey Bowl flag football tournament, generating hundreds of items for the Ronald McDonald House food pantry in Topeka.

In the process, the students became better acquainted with their classmates and learned to work together as a team, something that could have far-reaching benefits down the line, said tournament organizers.

Twelve teams, each representing a field of study at Washburn Tech, took part in the tournament, which started around 8:10 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after classes began for the day.

The entry fee for students wishing to play in the tournament was a canned food item or $1 to be donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which recently announced its cupboard was nearly bare.

In addition to going up against each other on fields set up on the southeast part of the campus at 5724 S.W. Huntoon, each department at Washburn Tech also was competing against the other to see which one had the most food donations.

By noon, the bed of a silver pickup truck that Washburn Tech mechanic students won in a Skills USA competition was filling up with canned food items. Skills USA is a national leadership organization with around 396,000 members that offers competitions throughout the year for students in technical education programs.

Only six teams remained in the co-ed tournament after the morning session ended. The winning team was to be presented with a trophy, while the department that donated the most food items also was to receive a trophy.

John Lemon, cabinet making and millwork technical instructor at Washburn Tech, said the tournament provided an opportunity for students to give back to the Topeka community as they donated food items for the Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing to families and loved ones of children receiving medical care at area hospitals. The tournament also gave students a chance to work together and develop leadership skills.

"It helps build teamwork, collaboration and camaraderie between the students," Lemon said. "That's really the focus of it."

Lemon said students got to meet classmates whose fields of study are in other parts of the campus, and who otherwise not get to meet each other.

Barton Homan, a Washburn Tech students, said the best aspect of the tournament was "the community-service part." He also said students got the  added benefit of interacting with each other.