That’s where the Kids Café at the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club comes in, serving a homemade dinner to over 250 kids every night! Boston Bruins defensemen Johnny Boychuk
and Matt Hunwick recently spent an evening as celebrity chefs at the club, serving up some good food, big laughs, and fun times.
“It's going to be fun. I'm excited to get started. It'll be fun to meet some of the kids and hopefully make them smile,” the 25-year-old Hunwick said of his first Kids Café visit just before the first batch of students showed up.
Boychuk, who took part in a similar visit last year, was also looking forward to the evening.
“Just handing out some food, handing out some autographs. I think last year I made a pie or something like that, so we'll see what we have today.”
The Kids Café is a service provided by the Greater Boston Food Bank at nine Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Eastern Massachusetts that gives warm, healthy meals to about 1,700 children every night of week.
“I think it's amazing,” said Andrea Swain, Executive Director of the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, of having Boychuk and Hunwick at the Kids Café. “As you can see, the staff and the kids are just wide-eyed, so for me, it's just very appreciative that they would give back, and especially at a critical time, at our dinnertime with the Greater Boston Food Bank providing a healthy, nutritious meal.
“That they're willing to serve and sign autographs, I just think, you know, it's always great to give something back, and for them to give their time and to make a young person happy for the day, so I'm very excited about that.”
What was on the menu for the B’s bluliners to serve? A hearty meal of tortellini in marinara sauce with a cucumber and tomato salad, an apple and milk.
“Bruins rule!” chanted some of the smallest dinner guests, with their Bruins pencils and stickers in one hand and a fork full of tortellini in the other.
Others asked, “Who’s there?” and “Are those real Bruins?” as they waited in line outside the cafeteria for their turn.
The kids ate in shifts by age. Many of the youngest were simply wide-eyed and silent as Hunwick and Boychuk handed them their autographed cards, while the oldest giggled and asked to have their cell phones signed.
According to Joyce MacDonald, the Program Manager for the Greater Boston Food Bank, bringing in athletes to help serve dinner at the Kids Café and to teach the children about health and fitness is something that the organization finds extremely beneficial and tries to do as often as possible.
"It's wonderful. It's always great. The kids always get very excited. They get to ask who's that, who's behind the line. It just brings sort of every dinner, just sort of another special night," said MacDonald.
“Well, I think it means that [the kids] are important and it gives them something to look forward to, a goal, because they see the hockey players playing, and to know that they are real people and that they care about them. They care enough to come serve them dinner and sign autographs, so I think it just speaks volumes to young people for them to emulate that behavior,” Director Swain added.
“For 100 years, we've provided quality service to young people, for them to make great choices, for them to look at being a career person, for them to set goals,” Swain explained. “There's that hope and opportunity and that's what the Boys and Girls Club is all about and I feel like that's what the Bruins represent along with us.”
But are either of these Boston D-men actually good cooks or should they stick to the ice and out of the kitchen?
“I'm a decent cook actually, but now that I have my girlfriend with me, she's been doing most of the cooking,” Hunwick said as he piled more salad on a plate.
Boychuk, on the other hand, simply responded with, “A little bit of both,” and chuckled when asked whether he was better at cooking or serving.
All in all, the night was a success with fun had by all. Each child could be seen leaving the cafeteria with a smile on their face and full from a tasty, nutritious dinner.
“Just seeing the kids and being able to interact a little bit and help pass out the food was really fun,” said Hunwick, a native of Roseville, Michigan.
Boychuk agreed with his teammate.
“All of them were smiling and happy that we were here and just everybody was smiling, so it was great.
“You see the little kids smiling the whole time. You know, just getting to meet us I guess, just brightens their day and we’re happy to help.” ---Ashley Robbins