Trading Helmets for Hairnets

College hockey captains volunteer at Feed My Starving Children.
Hockey rivals Zach Budish and Anders Lee team up for a good cause off the ice.

One college hockey game box score last season had Edina natives Zach Budish and Anders Lee each notching an assist as Budish’s Gophers beat Lee’s Notre Dame team, 4-1.

Those numbers were put in perspective the following day when the two teams, then-ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation, faced each other off the ice to pack boxes for the Minnesota-based nonprofit Feed My Starving Children.

That “box score” was Fighting Irish 53, Gophers 52. But the number that mattered was 22,680, the tally of meals produced from the 105 boxes to feed children worldwide.

“Two teams came together for a better cause,” says Budish, 22, who now plays for the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, part of the Nashville Predators organization. “We put the hockey aside for a day and try to benefit others.”

Budish, Lee and their teammates learned about the reach and exponential growth of the nonprofit, founded in 1987. Feed My Starving Children distributed 163 million meals in 2012, up from 3 million in 2003. The Irish and Gophers contributed to an estimated 190 million meals made in 2013 for hungry children in 70 countries, according to Ann Hill, the nonprofit’s development officer.

Hill, of Edina, was instrumental in organizing the event around the two Edina hockey captains. Notre Dame first reached out to volunteer on its off day before a trip to Minnesota, and Hill enlisted the Gophers to join them.

“They put on hairnets, gave up their helmets and worked side-by-side for the cause of feeding hungry kids,” Hill says. “It was really powerful.”

The room was divided, with Irish on one side and Gophers on the other.

“They decided to make it a competition, which always gets hockey players and athletes and people in general fired up,” Budish says. “That obviously motivated us.”

As an athlete used to performing at a high level, Lee, who now plays for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers (part of the New York Islanders organization) was impressed with the streamlined approach of Feed My Starving Children. Hill says the organization spends 92 percent of donations directly on feeding the hungry.

“It’s amazing the efficiency they have over there,” says Lee, 23. “They have everything down pat and they don’t lose any money with the way they put things together.”

Together is where Lee and Budish are used to being. They have known each other since fourth grade, when they played football, hockey and baseball together. Then they starred on the Edina Hornets hockey team.

“We’ve usually been on the same team, but in that case we were on other teams,” Lee says. “It was alright because we were working toward the same thing and helping out for Feed My Starving Children.”

Now both on AHL teams, Budish and Lee know that community service is a part of their commitment.

“We are role models for a lot of people,” Lee says. “If we can go out and make a difference and be that role model that people want in their lives, it feels good.”


Feed the Cause

You can join the army of 800,000 volunteers at Feed My Starving Children by visiting and signing up yourself or your team for a two-hour packing shift at three Twin Cities locations (Chanhassen, Eagan and Coon Rapids) or at mobile packing events in other counties.

“That’s an amazing number of people coming in to pack meals for a two-hour shift to be sent to kids they will never meet,” Ann Hill says of the nationwide effort. “We do a lot to show the impact the food has on the kids. We spend a lot of time telling our volunteers about how kids live without food in places like Haiti, Uganda and the Philippines. It’s not like writing a check. It’s really a hands-on experience and understanding of what these kids go through.”

In Edina, hockey players Zach Budish and Anders Lee didn’t have those same struggles.

“To see how little food people have that Feed My Starving Children reaches out to, it makes you not take for granted how fortunate we are here,” Budish says.

For more information, contact Ann Hill at