With so many lives affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was determined to make a difference in the Orange County community. He brainstormed ideas with his wife Jasmine, along with his teammates and their significant others, as details and stories continued to emerge. Eventually, they came up with a plan.
Following in the footsteps of owners Henry and Susan Samueli, Ducks players and their significant others stepped up in a big way on Monday by announcing a donation program of 200 meals per day to UCI Medical Center in Orange as an appreciation to the staff working tirelessly on the frontlines. Today marked the first delivery date at UCI and will continue based on ongoing needs and discussions with the staff at UCI. The Ducks teamed up with local restaurants still operating and staffing employees for the donations.
Talk amongst the players and significant others started early on. "This has been something that's been going on for a little while," Fowler said. "We were originally thinking about trying to help out the people working at Honda Center, but you saw the generosity of Henry and Susan continuing the pay the employees and take care of them. [The Samuelis announced earlier this month they were paying part-time employees at Honda Center through June 30].
"That's the kind of people they are. We decided to switch our focus to the people at the hospital and on the frontlines fighting this virus and taking care of the people. It's been in the works for a couple weeks. We're excited to get the opportunity to help those people out."
There were a lot of moving parts initially, like finding restaurants that were interested, logistical details with UCI, food delivery dates (and times) and more. Talks are ongoing, too. All of this, Fowler says, wouldn't have been possible without the help of so many, including the team's Community Relations department headed by Wendy Arciero.
"The players and significant others have been the driving force of this program every step of the way," said Arciero. "From working with Ducks staff to help coordinate details with UCI to reaching out to local restaurants, their goal has been focused on helping as many UCI Health staff members as possible. We're glad everything has come together so quickly to help our players realize that vision."
Fowler is grateful for the help and guidance Arciero and her staff have provided during this process. "There's been tons of work behind the scenes that Wendy and her team deserve a lot of credit for," he said. "As players, and all our families, there's really only so much we can do. We can try to come up with an idea and put some money together to help drive the cause, but a lot of the work behind the scenes like the logistics of everything and working with the hospital and restaurants, the majority of that work has been done by Wendy and her team. None of this would be possible without them. It's been a real team effort to launch this and make it so that it's convenient for the hospital. The last thing we wanted to do was be an imposition. We wanted to help out as best we could and make it a process that's smooth for everybody."
Fowler has been a Duck for nearly 10 years and takes great pride in being a positive role model on and off the ice. In 2018, he and Jasmine launched C4Kids - a program that provides youth with opportunities to learn, play and love hockey. This meal donation program is another way of giving back to a community that has given him so much over the past decade.
"This is a total group effort," he said. "Everyone involved in the Anaheim Ducks family, not just the players. This is all of us trying to put our best foot forward and make an impact on the community as best we can. Everyone deserves credit. I've been taking some phone calls and interviews, but all of this wouldn't be possible without everyone involved. It's something that has come together very nicely, and something we're very proud of. Not too long after we saw the announcement from the Samuelis, who are so involved in the community and helping other people, we felt that even though they took care of the Honda Center employees, there were still ways for us, as a team, to make an impact. We're certainly following in the footsteps of our owners, who are amazing people. We wanted to help out as many people as we can."
Fowler hopes the food donations will be a reminder to the workers at UCI Medical Center that they are making a difference during these unprecedented times.
"I have a lot of admiration for them," he said. "That's the feeling amongst all of us. You think about what you're doing and how you're helping. It's a meal for these people, but hopefully it gives them a little peace of mind. They know they have a hot meal coming. They're working hard to take care of the people who really need help. If this at all can put their minds at ease in any way, that's all we're hoping to do. Show our support for them and how thankful we are that they're continuing to work for our community and keep us safe."