Solar Bears help feed local children

ORLANDO, Flor. – With two days before hitting the ice for the first day of training camp, it would have been natural to think that members of the Orlando Solar Bears organization would be settling in and relaxing before camp starts. Instead, they were out reminding everyone that the newest team in town is part of the community. Last Saturday morning, six players joined head coach Drake Berehowsky and managing partners Joe Haleski and Jason Siegel in assisting the Feeding Children Everywhere organization to package healthy meals for needy children across Central Florida. The Solar Bears, along with volunteers from the metro area, packaged some 20,000 meals in a little over an hour – just part of a weekend effort that will provide more than 250,000 meals for distribution locally.

Solar Bears players and Shades helped out to feed local children (Photo courtesy of Orlando Solar Bears)

Solar Bears players and Shades helped out to feed local children (Photo courtesy of Orlando Solar Bears)

“This is one of the things that we want to get involved in. We need to be engrained in this community and we’re going to go to many events like this. This is very important for the guys,” Haleski said. “I feel my job is to teach the guys that you’ve got to give back to the community. So it is very important and this is a great organization to start doing this with.” Hunger is an international issue, but in recent years it has become a huge problem in the United States. Don Campbell, the president and C.E.O. of Feeding Children Everywhere, said that he and his wife Kristen saw a need after working with their church. “There is a need. There are hungry kids here and most people don’t know it. You don’t think it is actually here in the states but it is here,” Campbell said. “At the time that we started, my wife and I were working with a church and we said hey let’s do something in the community. As we continued to do more in the community, we started seeing that the need was much bigger than our dining room table – essentially that’s where we started from our dining room table.” Feeding Children Everywhere’s approach is a bit different than other organizations that collect and distribute food. The group works with schools on educating children about nutrition and good eating habits. Even the food they give out is designed with nutrition in mind. The meal is easy enough that elementary school children can be taught how to make and serve it, even adding other healthy items. “Our kids have to learn how to eat healthy at five and six and ten and twelve to develop healthy patterns later in life,” Campbell said. “I’m a food guy. I’ve cooked all of my life. I grew up cooking for my family. This meal is designed to be tasty, flavorful, healthy, full of dietary fibers and 84 trace minerals – things that are good for the body.” Each meal bag is a combination of rice, lentils, a blend of six dehydrated vegetables and pink Himalayan salt. The mix contains a very digestible source of protein, necessary carbohydrates, numerous vitamins and over 84 trace minerals plus amino acids. The recipe fights the affects of hunger and the only ingredient needed is boiling water to cook the mixture. It can also be used as a side dish or in other recipes. Campbell said that he consulted with Lisa Palmer, a nutritionist in Seminole County, and her husband to design the mix. The goal was to come up with something that provided all of the nutrition along with taste and most importantly be something that people could understand. He said that the recipe is always evolving in hopes of improving the taste and dietary impact. “We’re trying to design the healthiest, most impacting meal and keep it within our price point of 25 cents,” he said. In the short time that FCE has been fighting hunger both locally and
New Solar Bear Thomas Beauregard moves a box filled with meals (Photo courtesy of Orlando Solar Bears).

New Solar Bear Thomas Beauregard moves a box filled with meals (Photo courtesy of Orlando Solar Bears).

globally, they have garnered the support of many professional sports teams including the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Orlando Solar Bears. Campbell said that having the backing of organizations like sports team goes a long way in spreading the message. “For us the Solar Bears is such a treat, because for one, I think organizations want to do more. Professional sports teams like the Solar Bears grab five, six ten thousand people that come to games and those people often want to do more than just come to a game,” he said. “Partnering with local organizations like us provides something for the fan base to actually accomplish and show how we give back in the community in a hands on way. Sports teams provide people and we believe people are the source of change.” Ryan Cruthers, Kevin Baker, Thomas Beauregard, TJ Fox, Ryan Blair and Alexandre Imbeault were the six players who helped out with the packaging of the food and boxing of the bags. They all were excited to get out and meet some of their new fans. “This is a great thing. It gets us out there and it gets people to know who we really are and not just the hockey team. A lot of people got to know us as individuals and hopefully from that we will draw more of a crowd,” Fox said. “The group I was working with was a church group and a couple of the girls said they loved the Solar Bears back when they were here before. They were all excited to have a hockey team back and they said they couldn’t wait to come out and watch us.” Beauregard said that being able to help children made coming out that much more important. “They told us that 20 percent of the kids just in Orlando are homeless. Doing this was nothing big, but doing it was awesome. We had a lot of fun doing it,” he said. “It’s nothing big, but if we can put a smile to a kid or an adult, it’s awesome for us. As a player it’s really important to be involved because it is those people who come out to watch us so I feel like we have to give back.” For more information on Feeding Children Everywhere and its programs, please go to www.feedingchildreneverywhere.com . Contact the author at don.money@prohockeynews.com  

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