Local athletes want to make holiday meals special those in need | ParkRecord.com

Local athletes want to make holiday meals special those in need

Sharing a meal with family and friends is the heart of many celebrations.

But for those that can't afford a roast beast, the holiday season can be a bleak time.

That's why Park City High School junior Ben Agnew and his family are spearheading a project to deliver 1,000 meals to local residents in need this holiday season. The baseball player started the project after he and members of Especially for Athletes, a Utah-based club centered around making athletes into positive role models and people, were challenged by its founder, Dustin Smith, to come up with a winter service project.

Last year, James Agnew, Ben's father, came up with the idea of delivering 100 meals to those in need with the help of family and friends. This year, Ben thought it was a good opportunity to expand their project and take on something ambitious.

Whats nice about that is, we do that all the time through our food pantry, but to have a meal put together with love, if you will, is a special touch that they don’t get throughout the year, it’s specific to Christmas.” Rob HarterExecutive Director, Christian Center of Park City

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"We did some research on how to help out in Park City," Agnew said. "It was hard for us to come up with something we could do with others and join in so we started our own thing. This year we wanted to make it bigger and incorporate it with Especially for Athletes because of our challenge."

He said meals were particularly appealing as a project because, while other organizations donate meals during Thanksgiving, Agnew said he didn't know of anyone doing it for Christmas – a time his family typically shares a special meal together.

"I think for us it was just, we were kind of thinking about what our traditions were as a family during Christmastime and being able to have a meal as a family is something that our family has remembered every year," he said. "We talked about it and when we realized that some families don't have the opportunity to have a special meal together, that made us want to share that tradition … and make this time of year special for them."

When it comes to his family's Christmas dinner, Agnew said a home-cooked meal and his mother's key lime pie make the event memorable.

Rob Harter, executive director of the Christian Center of Park City, said the organization was thrilled to help with the project.

"Their heart is in the right place," Harter said of the Agnews. "They want to make sure everyone in Park City has a wonderful meal for the holidays. For someone to initiate this on their own then contact us is fantastic."

He said what makes the project special is that it's not just canned goods, which are typically provided in food drives.

"What they want to do is create a dinner they can hand to families that they can cook that night," he said. "What's nice about that is, we do that all the time through our food pantry, but to have a meal put together with love, if you will, is a special touch that they don't get throughout the year, it's specific to Christmas."

Harter is not the only one excited about the project. When Agnew started the project earlier this month, the only other people involved were his family and the members of his Especially for Athletes group (about 20 or 30 people). But once registration for the event opened, scores of people signed up.

"It was definitely good to get that support so quickly," Agnew said.

The project now has approximately 200 volunteers, and Agnew hopes to have around 250 by the time the meals are due for delivery on Dec. 23, when the volunteers will split into a delivery team and an assembly team, which will bag the meals for distribution.

Meals will require some cooking and include either a turkey or ham, a bag of potatoes, a bag of rolls, a bag of vegetables and a pie.

"For me, it's just been really cool to see all the support that we've gotten from the community and especially the high school," Agnew said. "Everyone's just been super supportive of the idea."

He said teachers and administrators have helped spread the word to make the project a success, and by working with the Christian Center of Park City and the school district, volunteers have been able to find people worthy of the cause.

With any luck, Agnew hopes the project will take off and grow into its own tradition.

"Once we get it in place, we can do it every year and hopefully make it something that these families can look forward to," he said.

To find out more about the project or to make a donation, go to parkcitymeals.com