ALL-STARS BODY-CHECK HUNGER

The Monmouth All-Stars beat Ocean 8-5 in a fundraiser for the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties at the Red Bank Armory Sunday. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

By STACIE FANELLI AND DANIELLE TEPPER

One night each summer, Red Bank plays host to a wall of noise at the Red Bank Armory: 42 hockey players from high schools up and down the shore, their friends, family and die-hard fans – all in the name of charity.

Jim Dowd, a “born and raised hockey player” and retired member of the Stanley Cup champion  New Jersey Devils, is the founder of the Shoot for the Stars Foundation, which has been running the charity game, a showdown between Monmouth and Ocean counties’ best high school players, for 15 years.

Approximately 500 action-thirsty supporters came out Sunday evening to watch “All-Star” competitors from 20 different high schools, including Red Bank Regional, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven.

Dowd selected the players based on their skills on the ice, he said. Christopher Connor of Middletown, for example, was All-Star of the Year for Middletown High School South‘s 2011-2012 school year, as well as High Score Player of the Year. Now 17, Connor has been playing hockey since he was four years old. His parents, Scott and Sharon, were part of the screaming throng behind the Plexiglas to cheer on their son, who scored two goals for Monmouth in its 8-5 win. They live and breathe the sport, they said.

Even those without a personal connection to the players came to enjoy the action. Four-year-old Andrew Kaminski (above right) of Brick donned a pair of heavy duty safety earmuffs to watch his beloved sport. He is being raised as a Rangers fan, and the team’s success in the playoffs during the latest NHL season left him craving more victories. In his mother Mary’s arms, he bawled as Monmouth took a 5-0 lead over Ocean and shrieked “Go blue!” at the top of his lungs when his team scored.

Many attendees contributed to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, this year’s beneficiary of a portion of $10 ticket, 50/50 raffle and sponsorship proceeds.

This is the second year in a row the FoodBank will receive donations from the foundation. In the past, Dowd has chosen a cancer research fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters, local youth hockey, a scholarship fund and a special needs hockey program as his causes. He likes to mix it up annually, but the FoodBank remained close to his heart this summer as supplies dwindle.

“It’s hard to see people in our area hurting,” Dowd said. “The seniors have to choose prescriptions or food. This year, [the FoodBank] had to serve over three million more meals, so it was a no-brainer.”

Carlos Rodriguez, the FoodBank’s executive director, said that every dollar counts in the summer, when “the problem of hunger is not on people’s minds as much as it might be during the holidays.”

One dollar provides three emergency meals for families, Rodriguez said. And while the game significantly benefits the FoodBank and those who depend on it, the Monmouth-Ocean rivalry is a welcome summertime treat for all locals looking to beat the heat.

“On a hot day like this, it feels like it’s in season,” Rodriguez said.