While some members of the Fort St. John Senior Flyers thought the idea of Five Hole for Food’s street hockey fundraiser was a great idea, none were able to make the trip to Edmonton on Wednesday to pick up a stick and take part in the cross-country event to benefit local food banks.
Edmonton was the closest stop to Fort St. John in the Five Hole for Food tour this year, but that may change in the future as the movement is growing at an exponential rate.
This is the third summer that the B.C.-based charity Five Hole for Food has crossed Canada in under three weeks, starting in Newfoundland and stopping at city after city to play street hockey and raise donations for the local food banks during its neediest time of the year. In the three years of its existence, the grass roots company has exploded in popularity, as hockey lovers across Canada have come together to play the sport they love for a good cause.
“For us we started three years ago and it was fairly humble beginnings, you know, Twitter, Facebook and a couple thousand dollars that’s what made us go from coast to coast,” said founder Richard Loat from downtown Edmonton on Wednesday. “But it’s changed a lot and Vic [Lo] and I are just immensely proud to see more and more people coming out at all the stops, so it’s a lot of fun to be back.”
“It’s funny, as we grow this from year to year, it’s been really cool to see the hockey community from all aspects of the spectrum come together, we have the Oilers Octane girls here, the Oilers gave us some prizes, seeing minor hockey leagues support and embrace us.”
Out of the 11 cities in Canada that the street hockey charity Five Hole for Food has visited during this year’s 13-city cross-country tour, Edmonton was definitely one they’ll remember when the trip wraps up in Vancouver on July 21.
Maybe it was because of the Edmonton Oilers’ Octane girls who showed up in blue and orange body suits, or the hot dog vendor conveniently parked right beside the fenced-in rink to tempt the players.
But when asked what made Edmonton different when they stopped in on Wednesday, Loat smiled, his hair still wet, and said, “The thunder and lightning.”
Halfway through the four-hour hockey game, black clouds rolled in and opened up, dumping rain and bolts of lightning on downtown Edmonton, but the players played on in their Oilers jerseys and T-shirts until the sun came back out, all for a good cause.
So far Five Hole has already raised 80,000 of its goal of 100,000 lbs of food, and with two more stops in Victoria and the big-hauler, Vancouver, Loat is certain to blow that goal out of the water.
“Everybody tells you you can’t do it,” he said. “It’s not like proving people wrong over something trivial. To raise 100,000 lbs of food across the country, I was put on this earth to make a difference and that’s the first step.”
While hockey-lovers across Canada are stepping up, it’s the B.C. cities that pull more than their fair share.
“Every year Vancouver comes out bigger and stronger,” he added. “Last year they tripled the largest city in terms of food raised on the last day and seeing Calgary come out with 27,000 lbs of food [this year], no doubt Vancouver’s going to step out and come out and blast them. They don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of Flames fans.”
Edmonton had quite a few players come out to take part in the event of Wednesday, but the food donations were much lower than Calgary’s, where Five Hole stopped on Tuesday. Loat is estimating that Edmonton raised 4,500 lbs of food compared to Calgary’s 27,000, something he hopes will increase in the City of Champions by next year’s tour.
Regardless Loat and the four-person team of Five Hole are happy with anything, because every little bit helps in this cause and awareness in itself has more of an impact than people think.
“The food will be here today and in someone else’s stomach tomorrow, but the people who come out here to play are getting an experience about giving that’s more than swiping a credit card, and that legacy impact is what I hope to leave every community with,” Loat said.”
“It’s a testament to the community doing it for all the right reasons, and I think Five Hole for Food is changing the way you give back,” he added. “It’s a really tangible, direct, immediate impact. You know that the food you brought out is going to a hungry stomach next week and I think that’s a really powerful thing to be able to empower the community to do that.”
In its stops over the years, Five Hole has been visited by people of all backgrounds, including NHLers of all ages, from first-round draft picks to current players and alumni, as word spreads of this unique idea to feed the hungry in Canada.
Of course Five Hole for Food can’t stop in every city and community across the country, but they are hoping to expand for the 2013 tour.
Loat suggests to anyone interested in helping support their local food bank to donate protein and baby products, as those are specific items in high demand and will go further than the typical canned goods that come to mind when people give. And while not everyone has the capacity to give money or food, many have the capacity to give their time by volunteering.
Loat, who’s only 23, is an inspiration and living proof how one small idea can grow and evolve into a nation-wide fundraiser that combines Canada’s passion for hockey with its compassion for its citizens.
“I’ve set out to not just impact my community but to impact communities across the country,” he said. “It starts at 13 [cities] now and I have plans to find a way to use Five Hole to impact year round, not just the three-week summer tour. We’re two years old now, on our third tour, and we’re going to be around for years to come.”
While Fort St. John is not on their itinerary this year, the city whose love of hockey is only eclipsed by their love of charity would certainly be willing to step up to the plate in the future. Until then, anyone interested in donating to Five Hole for Food or following their tour and amazing story, visit www.fiveholeforfood.com.