Danielle Grundy doesn't want parents to mortgage their homes to enable their daughters to play organized hockey like her folks did when she was growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia.
"My parents, we didn't have a lot of money growing up at all and they had to sacrifice a lot just for me to play the sport," Grundy said. "It wasn't until when I was older playing hockey that I actually found out that at one point they re-mortgaged their house to allow me to continue skating."
Mindful of hockey's escalating costs and its growing popularity among girls and women, Grundy co-founded the Grindstone Award Foundation, a Canadian charity that provides financial support to young female hockey players in need to keep them on the ice.
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The foundation has awarded 43 Canadian female players more than $21,000 in grants since Grindstone's inception in 2014. It hopes to award 50 grants for the 2019-20 season, each between $500 and $1,000 for players up to 19 years old. Families or individuals seeking grants apply online and must submit financial records for vetting.
Though the award amounts may sound small, Grundy said they go a long way given the high cost of hockey team and league registration fees, equipment, coaching and travel.
"We're not covering all the fees, obviously, but something as small as our help can make a big difference for families that are scraping by," said Grundy, a real estate agent who was a forward for NCAA Division I Dartmouth College and later played professionally in Switzerland.
Danielle Grundy with her parents
The foundation is hosting its annual weekend charity fundraiser in Kelowna starting Friday, a three-day event that features a women's hockey tournament; an on-ice skills session for girls 5-18 with Natalie Spooner, a forward from Canada's silver-medal winning women's hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and gold-medal winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; and a motivational speech by Spooner.
"The program is important because it does a lot for women's hockey -- it starts at the grass roots with the young girls, but it also has hockey for the older ladies," Spooner said. "The other piece of it is the charity piece where they give back and give girls who don't have that opportunity or wouldn't have the opportunity to play or continue playing because they don't have the funds to do that."
The foundation gets its name from "Grundy's Grind," a women's hockey camp Grundy operated from 2009 to 2014. The name "represents strength, determination and hardship," she said.
"It's skyrocketed over the last few years with the evolution of hockey academies where people are enrolling kids instead of regular minor hockey," Grundy said. "It can range from $20,000 to $40,000 a year for those high-performance academies."
Roger Nurse, whose daughter Sarah was a forward on Canada's Olympic team in 2018, estimated that his family spent about $27,000 Canadian in hockey registration fees for her between ages five and 15.
He adds another $5,600 for camps and power skating lessons over eight years. His calculations exclude travel costs and maintenance on the family cars that logged tens of thousands of miles to transport Sarah and hockey-playing brothers Elijah and Issac Nurse to practices and tournaments.
"It's more expensive today," Roger Nurse said. "If I were to start today, I don't know if I could put three kids through hockey. I really wonder how parents do it now."
Cheryl Gilroy wondered how they would get their daughter, Faith, 12, through hockey in the Toronto area in 2018 after her husband was laid off from his job of 11 years. The family received a $500 grant from Grindstone, which Cheryl Gilroy said helped as her husband worked three jobs and she did part-time accounting work for four clients to help the household.
"A friend of mine knew that we were having financial difficulties and he put us on to the Grindstone Award Foundation, which I took a chance and went ahead and applied for. When she got that grant, I was so ecstatic that something wonderful actually happened. That just seemed like a ray of hope that things were going to get better in terms of our financial situation as well as her hockey situation."
Faith Gilroy said, "Hockey basically makes up what I do and what I think about each day … I always wished I could play for the women's Canadian team in the Olympics."
Cheryl Gilroy with her daughter, Faith
For Denise Johnson of Vancouver, receiving a $500 grant in 2017 meant that she had to host fewer spaghetti dinner fundraisers and return fewer empty bottles for change to help pay for her 11-year-old daughter Isabelle's hockey registration and equipment.
"It definitely made a difference," said Johnson, who was the only working parent in the family when Isabelle came across information about Grindstone on Facebook. "I can't imagine her not in hockey now. It is an expensive sport, I'm not going to lie, but it's well worth it to see my daughter happy."