Inspired by the hordes of people who flocked to open scrimmages of ball hockey on downtown streets during the Vancouver Olympics, Richard Loat, 23, took that uniting force and hatched Five Hole for Food, a hockey campaign tackling hunger. Having just completed a 13-city, 19-day tour that started July 3 in St. John’s, NL. and finished in Vancouver, Five Hole For Food has raised over 70,000 pounds of food for the hungry since its inception in 2010.
For a third consecutive summer, Loat and his friends –Victor Lo, Jonathan Buyco and Tierney Milne–embarked on an 11,000-kilometre road trip setting up pop-up rinks across the country. An avid blogger and Twitter aficionado, Loat invited other passionate hockey fans online to come out and play in support of their local food banks. The power of the social medium resulted in this year’s expanded tour of 13 cities, the campaign’s biggest effort to date. The die-hard Canucks fan and SFU grad, recently named one of BC’s Top 24 under 24, hopes this year’s haul of food will top 100,000 pounds.
What inspired you to do this?
Seeing the power of hockey as a vehicle for social change, it was the passion Canadians had around the 2010 Olympics that inspired me to tap into that and use it to mobilize people not only in my home town, but in cities across the country.
Why support the food bank?
There’s this misconception that hunger is a seasonal problem – feed someone a turkey at Christmas and Thanksgiving and the problem is solved. That’s not the case. Summer is the time the food banks are hit hardest and, wanting to make a direct and tangible impact, it was an easy choice to support food banks. We know that the food we raise is going to a hungry stomach that week, the next week or very soon in the future.
What has been your biggest success?
Our biggest success to date has been raising over 70,000 lbs of food since our inception just over two years ago. It’s the satisfaction of being able to give back to communities across Canada and meeting the incredible people that so selflessly want to help their neighbours.
Being away from home for three weeks at a time is really tough. Especially this year when I proposed to my fiancé at the airport, then only to get on a plane two hours later and fly across the country. That was hard.
To see Five Hole for Food raise 1,000,000 pounds of food. And then, we go on to 10,000,000 lbs!
What does success look like?
To me, success is as much about raising food and shattering our food raising totals from year to year, as it is about seeing the ear-to-ear grins on the faces of the kids that come out.
Who has come out to play and support your cause?
It’s been tremendous seeing every spectrum of the community come out to play with us. We’ve been fortunate to have everyone from locals, to prospects, NHL first round draft picks and NHL players join us. My favourite was when Montreal Canadiens team owner Geoff Molson came to play hockey with us in Montreal. How often do you get to play with a multimillionaire? It was rad.
If you could invite anyone, who would you invite to play hockey?
I’ve always admired Sir Richard Branson for the incredible philanthropic work he does and have always looked up to him. Would love to have him come play some hockey and maybe pick his brain a bit, too!
Toughest part of the cross-country tour?
Toughest part has to be the lack of sleep. You play all day, drive all night, and spend hours telling your story. I got about 3-4 hours of sleep a night. It’s a grueling trip to say the least and you have to be mentally prepared more than anything.
Biggest hockey town?
Biggest hockey town has to be Montreal. As soon you cross into Quebec the ball hockey skill shoots through the roof. The quality of hockey is so good!
What city most impressed you?
Charlottetown blew us away. The Island quite literally came together to make things happen. The small town feel of Charlottetown was incredible as the entire hockey community really came together. Phoenix Coyotes first-round draft pick and World Junior player Brandon Gormely, Worcester Sharks’ Jimmy Bonneau, the PEI Rocket staff, and the UPEI Panthers players joined the Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Flood for a game of hockey for food.
Best life lesson you’ve learned?
Everyone has a story to tell, you just have to be willing to listen. There have been some incredible people that have joined us and even more incredible stories that have been shared.
One lesson you’d love to give others?
One person can make a difference. You need passion, an unrivaled tenacity, and the will to change the world. I haven’t done much yet, but I’m determined to keep trying!
One thing you could change about the world?
I wish magic carpets existed.
One thing you hate most about the world?
People that complain but then don’t do anything about it. Everyone has the ability to impact change. If you complain, you should be doing something.
One thing you wish Vancouverites would stop whining about?
The weather! We live in the most gorgeous city in the world. Open your eyes and enjoy everything that it has to offer!
Three words to live by
Love, laugh, live.
Most thankful for…?
My parents – they fostered the social conscience, the drive, the passion and the life that I exude on a day-to-day basis. I wouldn’t be anything without them.
A talent you possess that many are not aware of?
I can read minds.
One thing you can’t live without?
Last $20 bucks to your name, how would you spend it?
Chocolate milk, a chocolate bar and chocolate cereal, a meal of champions!
Best place for coffee?
Any place with an outdoor patio.
West Vancouver’s Village Taphouse. Love the atmosphere and they’ve got a pool table I could spend hours on.
La Bamba – it’s a Mexican place in Mountain View, California, and I’ve never had a better burrito in my life.
I’m a sucker for a good riesling.
Last book read?
Whatever Jeffery Deaver’s latest Jack Reacher novel is. I could get lost in those books for weeks.
All-time favourite movie?
Snatch by Guy Ritchie. You like dags?
I love the water so anytime I can spend on the lake, or cliff jumping, or in the water I’m a very happy boy.
Favourite sports team?
The Vancouver Canucks!
Last place travelled?
Before the cross-country tour it was to Chicago.
Best thing about this city?
You have the mountains 10 minutes in one direction and the ocean 10 minutes in the other direction.
The cost of living and housing prices.
What would the perfect day in Vancouver look like for you?
Morning of snowboarding up at one of the local mountains, afternoon of cliff diving out in the Whyte Cliff Park area, and a dinner date at the Canucks game followed by a walk around Coal Harbour.
Community event, festival or gala that you look forward to every year
West Vancouver’s Harmony Arts Festival. I cannot get enough of their outdoor wine garden that overlooks the water and downtown Vancouver.
The one place you take out-of-town visitors to show off our city?
There’s a place at the top of the Whitby Estates in West Vancouver nicknamed “Heaven” and it has the most stunning view of everything from Point Grey to Richmond to White Rock. On a clear day you can see Mount Baker and it’s stunning at night or day.
Who inspires you?
I used to competitively swim and was always inspired by Ian Thorpe, but since moving on from the national swim scene I look to guys like Richard Branson.
Local person you most admire?
My dad. He’s a super hero to me and always will be.
Most overrated person?
Me. I’m just a guy that loves hockey that’s doing what he can to make a difference.
Most memorable celebrity encounter?
Geoff Molson. Not every day you get to play hockey with half a billion dollars – was an amazing experience. I never met a guy that was so humble. He asked me to put my card in his shoe because his hands were full. He’s a very down to earth person.
If you could be any celebrity?
Will Smith. Got so much respect for everything he does because he does it with class.