When Richard Loat and the Five Hole for Food crew landed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the first things they did were to visit Cape Spear, the very eastern-most point in North America,dip a hockey stick in the Atlantic Ocean, and then get screeched in. With these symbolic acts, the second Five Hole for Food tour kicked off.
Last year’s inaugural tour was a great success – FHFF, a series of street hockey games played in various cities across the country to raise food and food bank awareness for the local food banks, raised 6,000 lbs. of food in 2010 – and this year is even bigger.
Richard says, “It’s almost been surreal how things have grown but it’s been a pretty great ride. Last we travelled between 9 cities in 11 days, this year the trip has expanded to 13 cities over 17 days as we start in St. John’s and add a Maritimes portion to our event. On top of that we’ve grown from a team of volunteers that numbered 3 people last year, to 40 people across the country that help make this happen.”
With a bigger event, FHFF’s goals are loftier as well – they want to raise 20,000 lbs. of food in 2011.
Richard has spent much of the last 12 months getting ready for this, “The big difference for us has been time. Last year from conception to execution we had 3 months to plan the trip. This year with a full year we’ve had the time to build in a lot more cool elements.”
Among those elements include a partnership with Hootsuite, where the crew is taking Owly across the country with them, and a Yelp challenge, in which local Yelp teams in Halifax, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver will compete to see who can raise the most food.
Beside Hootsuite and Yelp, many in the corporate community have also stepped up to help the cause. “The corporate community has been great. The hockey fans behind each of our partners has been so generous and it’s the reason a trip like this can happen,” Richard is proud to point out. “Chevrolet Canada has shipped an Equinox to St. John’s for us, TELUS is taking care of our communications support, and without our returning presenting sponsor Molson Canadian we wouldn’t be able to do this. What’s been great as well has been the corporate giving where our sponsors London Drugs and Canadian Pacific have also stepped up to give a donation to the food banks on our behalf on top of their partnership.”
And of course, FHFF, which was built using mainly social media channels, wouldn’t be what it is without various fans and bloggers, “In each city we reach out to bloggers and to number them would be impossible.”
Richard adds that there are many details of the trip done by fans and bloggers in each of the cities, “We’re constantly growing in each city and the buzz on Twitter alone has people excited for us to make it out to their city.
It’s a lot of work, but Richard is quick to note that it’s for a good cause. While food banks need the community’s support year-round, that need is especially higher during the summer months. It’s the reason Richard behind Five Hole for Food. And being a huge hockey fan, the fact that he gets to play hockey while helping the food banks is a huge bonus. Obviously, other hockey fans, regardless of what team or teams they support, feel the same.
“The reception has been tremendous and everyone loves the idea. It’s incredibly unique, rewarding and validating to see fans of all loyalties shed their colours and come together under one sport for one cause,” says Richard. “I think one of my favourite moments was seeing a 6 year old kid break open his piggy bank and donate his entire savings and worth to the food bank at Five Hole for Food because he saw us on TV and wanted to make a difference. It was the most genuine act of kindness and it’s moments like that which fuel me to continue my work.”
For that, food banks from coast-to-coast – and this year’s tour is truly coast-to-coast – are grateful.