Richard Loat said he would be lying if he told you that he fully expected an idea he came up with three years ago to blossom into what it has become.
Since its inception in 2010, Five Hole for Food has collected more than a half million pounds of food for food banks across the country.
“Originally, it was born out of the energy of sport in Canada during the Olympics,” explained Loat, the CEO and founder of Five Hole For Food.
“We were looking at this potential that hockey had to be this truly massive vehicle for social change across the country, bringing Canadians together.”
The plan was to visit cities across the country and stage massive road hockey games while collecting donations for local food banks.
That first year, 2010, the Five Hole for Food team set out to visit six cities from Montreal to Vancouver, covering 6,000 kilometres over 11 days. The goal was to raise 2,000 pounds of food, but 3,000 pounds were collected in Vancouver alone for a total of 6,000.
The next year, the tour added four cities, going as far east to St. John’s, Nfld. with another 43,000 pounds of food collected.
In 2012, the tour went to 13 Canadian cities over 19 days in July, collecting more than 133,000 pounds of food. And this past year, 350,000 pounds was raised on the tour.
Loat says the success of the initiative is somewhat surprising.
“But it also speaks to the fact that (this) creates a fun and engaging way for people to give back to their communities,” he said.
“It has been exciting to see its exponential growth.”
And this growth has led the Five Hole For Food Challenge to partner up with the B.C. Hockey League.
The BCHL-Five Hole for Food Challenge will see each of the league’s 16 teams host a donation drive during one of their home games. The food collected will go that particular town’s food bank.
The Nanaimo Clippers were first up as they held their game on Oct. 4.
The Langley Rivermen are next on the list as they will be collecting donations at the team’s game at the Langley Events Centre versus the Penticton Vees on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“By capitalizing on the natural rivalries that exist between our teams, we hope to generate increasing donations as we proceed to make a real difference in each community,” said Brent Mutis, the BCHL’s communications director.
“Five Hole for Food aims to bring a love for hockey together with action in the community at a grassroots level,” said Loat.
“And partnering with the BCHL on a league-wide campaign stays true to our goal of taking a national passion and making sure the impact is made on the local communities of those supporting the food banks through hockey.”
“We encourage and empower the local people to help those around them,” Loat said.
“You have the power and momentum of something that is national in scope, but the impact is something that is regional.”
Loat, a 24-year-old who recently completed his MBA at Simon Fraser University, recalled attending an Express game in Coquitlam a few years ago. He began chatting with a woman sitting nearby and she explained that they were a billet family.
“I got to see how the BCHL works … families put up players and the whole community gets involved with it and that really spoke to me,” he said.
Partnering with the junior hockey league also allows Five Hole for Food to become more of a year-round organization.
“There is a growing demand for food banks; hunger is a real issue in communities across North America,” Loat said.
“Hunger is not a seasonal issue. By being able to use (hockey) to raise food for food banks, we are able to combat hunger outside of those main times when people donate.”
The feedback they get as they travel to different towns and cities has been great.
“Whether we play in Toronto or in Kelowna or in … when we go into any of these cities, it is just a really exciting energy and feel, that camaraderie that hockey gives us all,” he said.