Written by: Jeremy Goode

When Snider Hockey in-person programming was suspended this past spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization remained committed to building lives and uniting communities by partnering with Nutritional Development Services (NDS), Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR), and First Book of Philadelphia to distribute free children's meals and books to families in need at Scanlon Ice Rink & Playground and Tarken Recreation Center.

Snider Hockey began this service on April 16, 2020 and reached the 50,000 meals and 10,000 books distribution milestones on August 13, 2020.

To mark these distribution milestones, Snider Hockey staff members were joined by popular Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot, Gritty, and several members of the Flyers Alumni to help distribute books and meals.

In addition to helping Snider Hockey staff, Gritty and Flyers Alumni members spent time interacting with attendees by taking pictures and having fun.

“When we first came up with the idea of distributing food in the community during the craziest pandemic we have seen this generation, I was a little apprehensive about it,” Raul “Roly” Figueroa, Site Coordinator at Scanlon, said.

He explained that he wanted to be safe and at home with his family, while spending time with his son.  But he acknowledged there were other priorities that were also important.   

“I realized the help we provide to the community is significant.  If a car pulls up and they have kids, we are feeding that family.”  

With the sudden halt in many everyday operations, Snider Hockey knew it would have to act quickly in implementing a system to help Philadelphians adjust to the new way of the world as a result of Covid-19.  Hilary Maggio, a community resources specialist at Snider Hockey, initially was concerned about the challenge of distributing thousands of meals and books to students. 

“It was stressful at first to think about the scale of the initiative and the need across the city while ensuring that staff and community members would remain safe and healthy,” Maggio said.  “Once we got started and saw how many families were coming out to get food from our sites, the quick turnaround and careful planning were well worth it.”

Distribution days featured Snider Hockey staff members arriving at each rink at 8:00 a.m., where they would set up tables and tents.  Cars would line up and down the block, and a staff member would walk the food over to each car as it pulled up.  Snider Hockey was able to distribute 900 meals each distribution day at each location.    

Joe Dorety, the Assistant Site Coordinator at Tarken, noted that it was important to get meals to children in the community since often they rely on meals from schools.  Since schools closed in March due to the pandemic, Dorety was pleased he was able to help distribute meals through Snider Hockey.

While the distribution programs encountered many familiar faces of current Snider Hockey participants, the campaign opened its doors to the greater Philadelphia community. 

“The majority of families who came to Scanlon and Tarken were not Snider Hockey families, so throughout the almost 5 months of meal distribution, we were truly able to serve the greater community and expand our impact,” Maggio said.

 In an effort to ensure that neighborhood children had access to books and were able to continue reading while being outside the classroom, free children’s books were also added to the meal distribution sites, allowing families to pick up meals and books at the same time before returning home.

While Figueroa misses seeing students lace up their skates at Scanlon, he believes distributing meals and books has served a great purpose during these challenging times. 

“This might even be more of an impact than what we do on the ice because people who do not know this ice rink is here are coming to this area to get food.”  

Throughout the four months, Snider Hockey may not have been drilling or helping students with their homework, but it found a way to help in another significant manner.

“We ended up giving out a total of 55,118 meals to families in need thanks to the committed teams of staff at Scanlon and Tarken who showed up every week with smiles on their faces,” Maggio said.

 When asked about the work Snider Hockey does, Dorety focused on the mission of the Foundation, explaining the role it plays in Philadelphia and leading by example, such as distrusting food and books to those in need. 

“It’s not just about hockey.  We want to make our students well rounded individuals.  Hopefully, they are able to take that away from the program.”