Lacing up the skates to fight hunger

Some NHL players will be coming to ‘The Hammer’ this summer to score some goals and lend their assistance to a great cause.

 Zac Rinaldo

Hamilton native, Zac Rinaldo is gathering up his hockey friends, and they will be lacing up their skates to raise both awareness and funds to assist Food4Kids Hamilton.

This year’s ‘Hockey Night In Hamilton’ event will take place on Saturday, July 13 at the Gateway Arena, beginning with a barbecue at noon, followed by the action on the ice with puck drop scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

Rinaldo mentions that the sport of hockey has such a special relationship between the sport and its fans.

“Last year’s event had a great turnout,” Rinaldo said. “It was a memorable experience looking into the crowd between periods during last year’s game and seeing all the fans in attendance.”

For Rinaldo, there is a special place in his heart for the Food4Kids organization. As he learned more about the Food4Kids charity, he described it as eye opening just how many kids lacked the resources to have proper meals.

“I wasn’t aware that there were this many children in my own backyard (in Hamilton) that were going without food or couldn’t afford to get a proper meal,” Rinaldo said.

After learning more about their charitable efforts and how the program works, Rinaldo felt it was a really good fit for him to form a partnership with Food4Kids.

“When can you help a kid by providing them with food it helps them on many different levels,” Rinaldo said. “This organization holds a special place in my heart and I want to help them as much as possible, along with the Hamilton area.”

Tom Flood Community Relations Co-ordinator for Food4Kids Hamilton, explained that the organization provides packages of healthy foods for kids between the ages of four and seventeen-years-old.

“We are a weekend feeding program,” Flood said. “On Friday afternoons, we place healthy bags of food into the backpacks of kids. The kids that are in the program are in the bottom two per cent of the poverty spectrum, meaning they have zero or extremely limited access to food each weekend.”

Flood continued, “the food that goes into their backpack on a Friday afternoon is what the kids will be eating on the weekend.”

Food4Kids started seven years ago in Hamilton with a pilot project of three schools serving 65 children. Now seven years later, the organization has grown to serve 62 schools and feeding approximately 1300 kids every week.

Flood pointed out, that Food4Kids has two teams of volunteers, one for the summer program and the other for the weekend program.

“Our one team of volunteers will drive all of the bins of food to the 62 schools, once they arrive at the schools, the administration of the individual schools will take those bags and distribute them indiscriminately,” Flood said.

The goal is to not further stigmatize these kids any further, by placing the food into their backpacks while they are in class. This way the kids will have enough food for the weekend.”

Currently, Food4Kids has one signature event which is their Breakfast Gala. One of the challenges, Food4Kids faces is awareness, as not everyone knows who they are.

“Having someone with profile of Zac Rinaldo and having him putting on an event such as this, the awareness and reach is really incredible.”Flood said. “It assists with both our fundraising efforts, but also the amount of positive exposure it gets Foods4Kids in both traditional and social media.”

Remembering Ray Emery

The second edition of Hockey Night in Hamilton will be dedicated to former NHL goaltender and Stanley Cup Champion Ray Emery.

Emery tragically died last summer during a late night swim in Lake Ontario. Both, Rinaldo and Emery shared a passion for giving back to people in the Hamilton area.

Rinaldo explained that he really didn’t know Emery on a personal level, until they both played for the Philadelphia Flyers. From the moment they officially met, there was feeling of mutual respect and a bond being from the same area.

“Every year, I have played in the NHL I have held a charity event and Ray Emery would religiously make every single event,” Rinaldo said. “Ray was just like myself, very loyal to his hometown. He had a passion for Hamilton and giving back to the community.”

Emery suited up and played net during last year’s inaugural event and enjoyed the experience. He shared those sentiments with Rinaldo after the game was completed.

“The night we were playing together (during last year’s event) he looked at me and told me that this event is unbelievable,” Rinaldo said.

Ticket Information

Tickets for this fantastic charitable event begin with general seating for the game priced at $20. If you are looking to meet Zac and his NHL friends for an up close meet and greet it is $100.

The VIP fee allows you a ticket for all of the action on the ice, a limited edition t-shirt and hat along with the meet and greet autograph session for $100.

Rinaldo also expresses his gratitude to the Tandia Financial Credit Union, as the event’s title sponsor and for Gateway Ice Centre’s, assistance as the venue sponsor.

To attend this year’s Hockey Night in Hamilton, purchase your tickets in advance through Eventbrite: