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Yearly touring event hopes to raise record amount of food
Hunger is a feeling many people have experienced at one point or another. Hockey is a game that's a part of our national identity and most of us are also familiar with as well.
Vancouver's Richard Loat took note of both those traits during the 2010 Olympics and used the two together to create Five Hole for Food – a yearly street hockey touring event, where Loat and his team, travel coast -to -coast, challenging any and all skill levels to play hockey for food.
"Hockey nets were set up along Granville Street and people loved it. It was at that time, when I realized that hockey has the potential to be this vehicle for social change across Canada," said Loat while recalling the first moment he noticed that Canadians' love for hockey could be used for a larger good, channeled into help elsewhere.
And so, it was around this moment that Loat would recruit a couple of his friends and they would start to plan their cross- Canada summer tour, with the goal of raising 2,000 pounds of food for various food banks.
According to Food Banks Canada's Hunger-Count 2012 report, more than half of Canadian food banks have had to cut back amounts given to clients in the past year. In Alberta, 53,512 people — almost half of them children — used a food bank in March 2012; an almost 60 per cent increase since 2008.
By the end of Five Hole for Food's inaugural tour, Loat and his team had played nine games in 11 days and travelled over 6,000 kilometres. The end result - the team had raised more than double the 2,000 pounds they had hoped for and in the process increased awareness of hunger amongst Canadians.
By the time the second tour had begun, word of Loat's and the team's efforts had reached as far back as Newfoundland where he was asked to set up a game on a ferry's helipad while they were travelling to Nova Scotia – a moment that still stands out as one of Loat's best memories.
"That was a special moment getting to play hockey there. And I think that moment is very indicative as to what we do, which is we will play hockey anywhere that we can."
That special memory Loat hopes will be surpassed by a new one this summer as he and his team set out to raise 250,000 pounds of food for Canadian food banks – Calgary's beneficiary is the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank.
At last year's stop, Calgary set a new single stop record of over 27,000 pounds of food.
"Last year it was the perfect coming together of the local community and the corporate community. We had a record turnout in terms of people and we also had some corporate partners that decided to contribute in a matching manner and that really helped amplify the donations," Loat said.
However the record was short-lived as Vancouver raised over 43,000 pounds of food less than a week later, which brought the tour's total to a whopping 133,000 pounds raised in roughly three weeks.
And as for how Loat is hoping to make topping that number a reality this year, he aspires to have donation boxes in 7-Elevens across Canada. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also issued a challenge to mayors across Canada to make time
for the event and play a little hockey for a good cause, which will help towards the goal.
"Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi is one of the more active mayors on social media and I'd love to see Calgarians tweet him the million dollar question, which is, 'Will you play hockey for food on July 16th at Eau Claire Market?'," said Loat.
Aside from the possibility of seeing Mayor Nenshi playing hockey, the event has drawn Western Hockey League players and local celebrities in the past as well.