DETROIT — As a kid growing up in Ilava, Slovakia, Tomas Tatar was no different than any other grade school student. Carrying a loaded down backpack, his days were filled with the basics: math, science, history. The most significant lesson that a young Tatar learned, though, was the importance of sharing with others.
For every point Tatar records during the 2014-15 season, the Red Wings forward will donate $100 to the Gleaners Community Food Bank’s BackPack Program. The program sends a bag with six meals home with hungry elementary students, a cause that Tatar empathizes with from his school days.
“I had an example from back home,” Tatar said. “I went to school where we had (children) from like fifth grade to nine and there was a difference between families there but guys were really nice and they were sharing. I feel like maybe not every class is this kind of people around so I feel like kids gotta eat healthy and they need that support. They don’t want to be pushed away because their parents can’t offer food for them.”
Recalling a distinct social difference between his classmates, Tatar said it didn’t matter as students shared food and snacks with one another. However, that generosity amongst children may not be as common as it was at Tatar’s school, so he felt a need to continue that kindness in Detroit by contributing to the BackPack Program.
According to Gleaners, more than 300,000 children in the Detroit area receive two out of three meals at school. On the weekend, those students often go without meals, so Gleaners partners with local schools to distribute backpacks filled with nutritious food for the weekend to children who rely on free school meals during the week. The program provides about six meals to hungry children and includes milk, canned protein, fruit and vegetables as well as whole grain cereal and crackers.
“I couldn’t imagine what would happen if people didn’t share food and how hard it would be for a kid to not have food,” Tatar said. “It’s not a mistake by their family, they just can’t provide it. We didn’t have this kind of chance to help back home so I feel a pleasure to help the kids and bring food for them.”
Gleaners is committed to distributing nutritional, high-quality food. Through education and advocacy, the organization looks to reduce reliance on the emergency food system. Gleaners adopts best practices and cost-effective systems and procedures to achieve the highest possible return on its human and financial resources. Gleaners fulfills its role with a sense of compassion and urgency while nourishing, sustaining and advancing hope in the community.
“I feel like if you’re a pro athlete, people are taking you more serious than anybody else. You can help this way and people can support it,” Tatar said. “We have fans who want to meet you and they can donate some money for a good cause. At the end of the day, it’s going to be for a good thing and it can help to sick kids or can help buy food for poor kids. So I think it’s real important, like this world needs help and not everybody has the chance to play in the NHL or be born into a wealthy family so I feel like this is a good way to support it.”
To learn more about Gleaners Community Food Bank of southeastern Detroit or get involved with the BackPack program, visit gcfb.org for information.