Road hockey charity Five Hole For Food completes third annual cross-country tour

L-R: Richard Loat, Dixon Tam and Vic Lo of Five Hole For Food.

Richard Loat has had a fairly eventful summer. He graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications. He got engaged. And he just returned from a three-week, cross-country tour with his charity, Five Hole For Food.

Five Hole for Food is as Canadian a charity as you'll find, an annual coast-to-coast tour that organizes a day of pickup hockey in support of food banks across Canada. Rinks are set up in the heart of 13 Canadian cities, and anyone and everyone is invited to come with a hockey stick and a donation. 100% of the proceeds go to the city's local food bank.

The charity is growing exponentially. Last year, FHFF raised 43,000 pounds of food on their tour. This year, they raised that much at the finale in Vancouver alone, shattering their ambitious goal of 100,000 pounds with over 133,000 pounds collected in three weeks.

"When we set out saying we're going to raise 100,000 pounds of food, a lot of people look at you funny," says Loat. "And yet, to come back to Vancouver and see 20,000 pounds of food stacked in pallets on the street, to not only meet 100,000 but to just smash that... To see it grow year over year, it's been tremendous."

Despite all that growth, the charity still feels small and intimate, especially during visits to cities like Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

"It was really special in every city we visited, but particularly in places like Charlottetown, where that small-town mentality really came together. We had [Coyotes prospect] Brandon Gormley come out and play with us. [We] wanted Brandon to come play, and they couldn't get in touch with him. So what do they do? In typical small-town fashion, they call Brandon Gormley's mom and say 'Hey, we want Brandon to come play hockey for the food bank.' And she's like, 'Oh, don't worry, he'll be there on Saturday, just tell me what time.'"

Five Hole For Food began as little more than an idea for a really neat trip. Richard wanted little more than to go across Canada and meet up with some of the friends he'd made while blogging about the Canucks. So how did it go from a summer vacation to a charitable endeavour?

"By just talking to people," says Richard. "I reached out to all the bloggers I knew back when I used to write about the Canucks and I just said, 'Hey, I'm driving across Canada, I wanna meet some of you guys, put faces to names, let's play some ball hockey.'"

"I dropped the word charity in there, people loved it, and it just took off."

It didn't hurt that Molson Canadian got on board right away, sponsoring the inaugural tour.

"I reached out to Molson Canadian and they happened to say yes at the right time. From conception to execution that first year was less than 3 months. We flew by the seat of our pants, I'll wholeheartedly admit that, but it ws a truly unique experience in that it opened our eyes to the potential this had as a charity."

Two years later, that potential continues to unfold.

Five Hole For Food has a host of sponsors now, making it possible to do even more, such as provide the food bank in St. John, New Brunswick with a computer, something the Five Hole crew observed that they lacked during last year's stop.

"They're all retired people who just pour their lives into making sure the community is fed," says Richard. "They were manually processing 500 orders a month."

But Telus stepped up to help them go digital.

"I told [Telus] this story and the guy I was working with said, 'let me see what I can do.' He called me into his office a few weeks later and said, 'give this to the food bank. It's theirs to keep, it's from us,' and he gave a refurbished, almost brand-new laptop."

The Five Hole team captured that moment on video:

Giving away the computer also opened up some much-needed room in the car. It's hardly a luxury ride, with five guys stuffed in a Chevrolet Traverse for six hours a day alongside their carry-ons, laptop bags, hockey sticks, two hockey nets, goalie gear, camera gear, and video gear.

"It's a very full car," Richard laughed.

But each stop makes it worth it, especially now. "After you go to cities two and three times, they start to really embrace what you're doing," says Richard. "It certainly solidifies the fact that this is going to be around for a fifth anniversary, a tenth anniversary, a twentieth anniversary, as many years as we can continue to fight hunger."

So what's next for Five Hole For Food? Richard hopes to pilot the charity in a handful of American cities, as well as growing the entire operation so that it can help people year-round and raise more. "I'm just looking forward to the day when we can say Five Hole For Food has raised a million pounds of food."

At the rate the event is growing, that's not far off.

"It's the most inspiring thing," says Richard. "It's the thing that makes me want to start next year's tour tomorrow."