Stride with us for championing women and girls in sport and recreation! We are highlighting the people and programs that are paving the way for advancing gender equity so we can inspire others and make an impact! Learn more about our GAME CHANGERS campaign.
The Grindstone Award Foundation is an amazing initiative to help girls play hockey financially. What is the story behind the start of Grindstone and how long have you been around?
It’s a beautiful story of 2 women in Kelowna, BC who love the game of hockey and who recognized the financial barriers that exist for girls to get to play the sport and essentially, they decided to do something about it. Grindstone gave out its first grant of $500 to a female player in 2016 and the charity has been growing from there. We have given out over 150 grants to date, and the demand has never been higher, so we are focused on generating as much funding as we can so that we’re not turning away any deserving applicants.
How has Grindstone impacted the lives of young girls?
Every year, our Board sets aside time to review all our grant applications and we unanimously say that it’s the most touching and motivating time we spend as part of the Grindstone team because the stories are just amazing. It’s not as simple as “I like hockey and I want to play”. We get some really heartfelt stories shared with us about how playing hockey is part of the player’s identity or that it contributes to their positive physical and mental health and is an essential part of their well being.
We also get stories of families waking up at 4am to drive 2 hours for practice at the nearest local rink and of girls who dream of getting hockey scholarships and making the national team. And then we also get stories of girls who want to use the soft skills they are learning in hockey such as teamwork and leadership to go on and become successful in their future careers. It really is something else to know that Grindstone is helping these girls do something that is so critically important to their lives. It’s what motivates us to keep working hard to grow our reach and impact.
How can we show girls the potential of what they can be in the future?
The key word there is “show.” A lot of our Grindstone team can speak to the fact that we grew up without female role models in sports because they just weren’t celebrated and marketed the way male athletes were. Humans are visual and we like to see things in order to believe they’re real. It’s no different with girls in sports. They need to see athletes who look like them and act like them on TV and on social media for them to believe that it’s possible for them to be like those athletes. A lot of times, girls can be vilified for being “different”, but if they have someone they can look up to and say “that person looks/acts” just like me, suddenly, they don’t need to justify who they are to anyone. We need to keep using our platforms to amplify all the incredible women across all industries right now and just make sure the next generation knows that the sky is the limit for them.
We are unfortunately seeing many girls drop out of sport during their teenage years. How has financial aid made a difference in the lives of award recipients?
We are proud to say that we have many girls who we have been able to support year after year since our inception, and they do share with us that they would have dropped out of the sport years ago if not for our financial support. Hockey is a high-cost, high-barrier sport, there’s no question about that. We also know that girls drop out at a higher rate than boys because perhaps they see less of a future for them in the sport. But that’s about to change. We see that college programs are growing both in Canada and in the US, and we know the efforts being put into establishing a professional league. Having robust minor hockey programs will be critical for the sport because that’s what’ll feed the pipeline into collegiate and pro women’s hockey. It makes Grindstone’s role even more important.
How can others support the growth of women’s hockey?
It could be as simple as watching games and amplifying the athletes and events to your networks, volunteering at events or for organizations like Grindstone, or, of course, donating your support financially. We have a bunch of financial and non-financial options for how to support Grindstone on our website: https://grindstoneaward.com/#fundraise.
Connect with Grindstone Award Foundation