Coming Together - Cal Field Hockey Feeding the Needy During Pandemic

May 27, 2020, 4:20 p.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Cal Bears Athletics

Brynn Zorilla found inspiration during a difficult time. 

As Americans hunkered down in their homes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, her cousin, Carolyn Flannery, a social worker at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, took on an important role in the Intensive Care Unit - coordinating communication between families and their loved ones who are in critical condition due to the coronavirus.

"I was really inspired by the extra work and dedication she was putting into her new role, and I know many families see her as one of the many frontline heroes," Zorilla said.

Motivated to help, Zorilla sought a realistic option she could handle from the safety of her home, as well as a way to get the rest of the California field hockey team involved. After doing some research, the Golden Bears' sophomore midfielder reached out to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

A representative from the organization responded quickly to Zorilla's inquiry with information about the company's goals and steps to start a fundraiser with their help. They laid the groundwork for a fundraiser throughout the month of May with the goal of raising $5,000 to feed struggling individuals in the Bay Area.

As of today, the fundraiser has raised over $3,684 toward the $5,000 goal.

In addition, Zorilla reached out to fellow America East Conference foes Stanford and UC Davis for a combined effort toward the cause.

"One of the things that makes us excited about this partnership, and the support of this fundraiser, is the combining of passions," said Katy McKnight, the Director of Community Engagement for the SF-Marin Food Bank. "When a person, or in this case multiple groups, bring their passion to support the community, to us, there really is nothing better. We were so excited when Brynn reached out and garnered support from three teams to help us with our COVID-19 response. Athletes can be fierce competitors on the field, but this joint effort highlights the underlying sportsmanship and teamwork that sets these student-athletes above."

The trio of in-state field hockey programs know there are more important issues at hand right now with the worldwide pandemic. Since athletic competitions are on hold for the time being, this community service endeavor also serves as a way to stay connected remotely.

"I've grown up playing with some of the girls who are now my opponents, yet those connections remain strong," Zorilla said. "I think it has been really cool to see that we can maintain our competitive edge while also joining forces for a greater cause."

Cal head coach Shellie Onstead was impressed how quickly Zorilla got the fundraiser off the ground, from reaching out to the food bank, contacting student-athletes from other schools and putting together a promotional video by herself.

"Brynn initiated this all on her own and then reached out to me for thoughts and compliance approvals," Onstead said. "She is genuine in putting her words into actions, which is one of the things I admire about her. To get the other western America East Conference schools involved was really smart and gave them a common purpose."

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is currently serving an additional 24,000 households every week through emergency pop-up pantries and expanded home delivery grocery programs, so as much food and resources at their disposal is critical. Cal's fundraiser will help the organization provide over 6,000 meals.

The fundraiser runs throughout the month of May. Please click here if you would like to donate to the cause. A generous donor of the Food Bank recently made a pledge to match all donations of up to $100,000.

"As part of the California field hockey community, I am super grateful for the support we constantly receive," Zorilla said. "Thank you to everyone who has donated and helped spread the word. We will continue working towards our goal of $5,000 by the end of May. Go Bears, Ags and Card!"