Halladay pitches hunger relief


In two seasons as a Philadelphia Phillie, right-handed pitcher Roy Halladay has made many eyes marvel over his magnificence. He proved pleasing stomachs matters to him as much as embarrassing hitters Sunday. 

Before his team’s tilt against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner fraternized and took photos with nearly 200 fans outside Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way, in support of Philabundance, the latest entity to benefit from The Halladay Family Foundation.

Eager contributors to the Phans Feeding Families initiative brought so many donations that Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., filled its 26 boxes by the midpoint of the two-hour event, Phillies’ spokeswoman Deb Rinaldi said. The guests received information on the foundation, a commemorative image from Halladay’s May 29, 2010 perfect game and a Phans Feeding Families pin. The final item has proven popular online and at the stadium, as fans have bought more than 4,000 pins, with each $5 purchase helping the 27-year-old Philabundance to buy 10 meals.

Halladay jerseys and T-shirts made apparent the fans’ love of the Colorado native who aligned with Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, shortly after his Dec. 15, ’09 trade from the Toronto Blue Jays. The supporters feasted on traditional ballpark fare before being able to let their mouths focus on offering pleasantries to their hero. 

Another icon, former catcher Darren Daulton mingled with the crowd, doling out autographs and receiving kudos for his 17 years with the organization. A special invitee, the three-time All-Star revealed a desire to join Halladay as a Philabundance spokesman. 

A shade after midday, the 6-foot-6 hurler entered the tent area. He towered over the participants, allowing his literal size to serve as a great complement to his figurative status as a giant humanitarian. 

As a Blue Jay, he joined with his wife Brandy to contribute to The Daily Bread Food Bank. Charitable streaks inspired them to develop a foundation that addresses whatever causes appeal to their sensibilities. The one-year-old creation has thus far helped families of sick children through the Doc’s Box program, chemotherapy patients through the Ryan’s Rally Caps endeavor and horses courtesy of the Safe Stalls undertaking. 

“He is our favorite, along with [catcher] Carlos Ruiz,” Linda Chavez said as Halladay started to flash his enviable smile for group shots. 

Natives of New Mexico, she and husband Victor moved to Montgomery County four years ago and have nurtured an intense love of the Phillies. 

“We are obsessed,” Linda Chavez said shortly before she and her mate posed with Halladay. 

“The team has great camaraderie, chemistry and class,” Victor Chavez, the winner of the day’s first prize, a team bag, said.

The two became aware of Phans Feeding Families through a public service announcement in which Halladay declares that 900,000 people, a figure that Philabundance’s president and executive director Bill Clark said is a demographic estimate from the federal government, are at risk of hunger in the Delaware Valley. Citizens Bank, Philabundance and the Phillies gathered June 30 to announce their union to combat that total. Philabundance received $50,000 of Citizens’ $133,000 in donations to nonprofit organizations, and the team launched a food drive that included offerings before Sunday’s and July 10’s contests. 

The Chavezes gave two bags of goodies, including the always-coveted staples peanut butter and jelly, helping the organizations to amass more than five tons of food and enabling Philabundance to provide more than 190,000 meals. 

“What would our lives be like without the Phillies?” Victor Chavez asked. “We had to help.”

Donning a Phans Feeding Families pin, Halladay welcomed outstretched hands and thanked the fans. Managing the groups seemed more difficult for the photogenic Phil than taking care of the Pirates Friday, as many fans appeared reluctant to have their time with him end. His right arm long ago earned their admiration, so Sunday gave them chances to laud his heart, too.

“Each time I take the mound, I experience the tremendous support of Phillies fans,” he said in a statement. “To see fans give the same level of passion to help those in need is why Phillies fans are the best in baseball.”

Halladay would receive many votes as the best pitcher in baseball, but it is his pitching in that has strengthened his reputation in the eyes of Clark.

“We thought it would be great to tie the goodwill of the organizations together,” he said of the partnership.

Philabundance began its relationship with the Phillies several years ago through former first baseman Jim Thome. The company works with the city’s other sports teams, but Clark said he sees the union with the Phillies as the strongest. 

“Over the last two years, the need for food has increased by 60 percent, but the availability has declined by 20 percent,” he said, adding that seasonality affects the nutrition situation, as children who had depended on their schools for breakfast and lunch must look to their guardians exclusively in the summer. 

Families continue to stretch their funds to provide quality nourishment, so his seven programs help to ease the dilemmas of 65,000 people per week in five Pennsylvania and four New Jersey counties, with at least 60 percent of the assistance going to Philadelphia proper. 

“It’s great to have Roy and Brandy helping us,” he said of the duo. “What better organization is there to partner with at this time of year than the Phillies? They own the summer.”

Clark noted Philabundance is able to provide a meal for around 50 cents and estimated the tent party’s admission fee would bring in around $11,000. Donations to his organization also came from SEPTA riders, who Sunday dropped off items at the Broad Street Line’s AT&T Station, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. Their generosity built upon the transit system’s June initiative through which passengers deposited provisions at 50 stations. All of the efforts will go toward helping Philabundance to top last year’s distribution of 21 million pounds of food. 

The tent partygoers received game tickets, so they earned a chance to see Clark and eight other dignitaries throw out ceremonial first pitches. Each hurler represented 100,000 of the 900,000 needy individuals and earned applause from the Phillie Phanatic. 

“The fans have done a phenomenal job showing their compassion for the less fortunate,” Rinaldi, a 10-year employee said of their acceptance of the message that proper nutrition is not a privilege. “We are fortunate to have so much help.”

For more information on Phans Feeding Families, visit www.philabundance.org/feedingfamilies

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.