By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Once the 42-inch high doors swing open, and you step onto the 200-by-85-foot sheet of ice, the game of hockey can come at you like a blur. With victory, the ultimate goal, distractions on the other side of the half-inch thick Plexiglas must be blocked out.
But outside the rink, there are other numbers that puts some perspective into the game. According to Feed Our Babies USA, just in the state of Arizona, there are over 1,000 families in each school district that do not qualify for state-funded Food Banks1. Arizona’s food insecurity rate for children, which measures children under 18 years of age without availability to nutritionally adequate food, is 24 percent, the fifth-highest in the nation, according to Feeding America2.
This is where Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey comes in. Partnering with Feed Our Babies USA last weekend, the Lopes did their part to fight those numbers, helping to pack food boxes and lunch packs with fruits, vegetables and various canned goods for families with children, and even young students that need them most.
“We want to help as many people as possible,” Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi said. “Doing events every time we have an off weekend is important. This is when you take the time to help someone in need.”
The team is no stranger to helping children and families in need. GCU previously volunteered with Feed My Starving Children to help create 50,000 meals for children across the globe. In the same vein, choosing this specific organization to work with wasn’t done at random. Working with this local organization, the Lopes were able to step into their own community and see the problems first-hand. All along valuing how team chemistry is built through these volunteer events.
“The girls had a lot of fun with it,” Rossi said. “The attitude they bring to community service is great because you can see that they really want to positively affect the community around them.”
Smiles, laughter and singing were all shared in the morning’s event, and it was all part of what the team created themselves. Taking charge in these events not only delights their head coach, but the players become more than just teammates.
“Of course, we have fun playing hockey, but it’s fun to get out there and do something good for the community together,” Lopes’ sophomore defenseman Kylie Kramer said. “It’s good to provide that culture, and be role models as a team.”
Continuing to establish a culture of helping others is something the team has regularly promoted. The Lopes donated their time over Halloween as part of a “Trick-or-Canning” event to collect canned goods for the Desert Mission Food Bank. They also took part in the Arizona Autism Speaks Walk to help fundraise for autism awareness.
In the enduring effort to grow the game of hockey, there are six players on the GCU Women’s Ice Hockey team certified to help with Little Howlers Hockey, a learn-to-play program from the Arizona Coyotes, for kids ages 5-9. Not only does this event and the others allow the team to further the sport they love, but it forges the idea that hockey is more than just a game.
“This is when we have the most fun,” Kramer said. “It’s nice to see such a big group coming out to these hockey events, and show them as a role model you can play hockey and create that culture in [Arizona].”
Added Rossi, “We came here and there were 20 strangers. But these events allow them to have fun and give them that extra time together. Instilling that value of helping people in need is important.”
- Feed Our Babies USA. (2017). About us: Who we are. Retrieved from http://fob.deepwizardry.com/about/
- Feeding America. (2017). Map the meal gap 2017 [PDF Document]. Retrieved from http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/map-the-meal-gap/2015/2015-mapthemealgap-exec-summary.pdf