Since coming Out of Hibernation in 2012, the Orlando Solar Bears have made it their mission to give back to the Central Florida Community. And from day one, the Solar Bears have continued that mission by aligning with the Community Food & Outreach Center, an organization that aims to help those in need transform their lives by providing food, crisis care, opportunities for education and employment, and a hand up to families, individuals and children who are fighting to break the cycle of poverty.
The two organizations came together along with a members from the Orlando Youth Hockey Association and local volunteers on Monday, Nov. 22 for the "Hopeful Harvest" Thanksgiving outreach event at CFOC's Downtown Orlando Campus. This event is designed to provide much-needed assistance for many families struggling to break free from poverty and help them avoid going hungry this Thanksgiving season.
"I think it's extremely important for a number of reasons. Number one, you know what stands for and how much they want to help people, and with our manpower we feel like we can help them," Solar Bears Head Coach Anthony Noreen said. "On top of that for our guys, it opens their eyes up to some real-world needs."
The Solar Bears players, coaches, dance team members, Shades, front office staff members and additional volunteers performed a number of duties critical to making the event a success, including greeting visitors, unloading incoming food items, re-stocking shelves, bagging food items and distributing Thanksgiving turkeys to approximately 225 families attending the "Hopeful Harvest," in addition to the 520 families that frequent the CFOC grocery program on a typical Monday.
"We love the tradition of the volunteers and players coming back over again. There's enough returning players who can show everyone the ropes, and they can jump in without a whole lot of instruction" CFOC Executive Director Eric Gray said. "It's really nice to see how our organization grows right along with the team and the success that the team has been having has been fun for us to watch; it's been fun for them to see how we're growing as well."
For new Solar Bears players such as rookie goaltender Ryan Massa, who greeted visitors at the main entrance and helped escort several patrons throughout the event as they shopped for groceries, the experience was highly illuminating.
"For us to take some time out of our days and put some smiles on faces and help everyone have a pleasant Thanksgiving is a rewarding experience," Massa said. "Watching everyone walk out with a smile and a Thanksgiving turkey is something we all can be thankful for."