When discussing some of the most influential provinces in Canadian women’s ice hockey, regions such as Alberta and Ontario would spring to mind right away. Over the last few seasons, British Columbia has risen in prominence. From an unprecedented number of competitors suiting up for the Under-18 team, to the emergence of the offensively gifted Potomak sisters and defensive stalwart Micah Hart as part of Canada’s centralization for the 2018 Winter Games, such an impact is nothing short of impressive.
Adding to this remarkable feeling of momentum in Canada’s Pacific region is the uplifting presence of the Grindstone Award Foundation. Working tirelessly towards giving back to the community, providing young girls an opportunity to play that would have otherwise eluded them due to financial obstacles, it is helping to set a positive tone while encouraging the spirit of hockey humanitarianism.
The summer of 2017 saw the highly admirable Grindstone Award Foundation lay the groundwork for a fundraising event poised to be an essential component of British Columbia’s sporting calendar. With the Grindstone Charity Tournament hosted from July 21-23, 2017 at West Kelowna’s Royal LePage Place Arena, it was the kind of event that helped unify the entire community, while a Skills Competition and Pub Night Silent Auction helped foster the spirit of fun and friendship.
Among the wondrous women that helped assemble such an admirable event, Sasha Podalchak and Alison Rasmussen were part of its heartbeat. They are part of a great team that also includes co-founder Danielle Grundy, Elina Briezkaline and Candice Moxley. Helping to set the tone for an event was truly a labour of love for all involved, their leadership was essential towards such unprecedented success.
Considering that it also signified Grindstone’s biggest and most significant event to date, it was also a turning point, heralding an era where friendship and support shall stand as their pillars. As Rasmussen discusses what she enjoyed most about graciously giving her time to help make this event a reality, there was a definitive response,
“Creating the Grindstone culture. With our focus on supporting girls and women in hockey, it was so much fun building a team of volunteers who were genuinely excited about making the Grindstone Charity succeed.”
With a tournament that saw teams from both Canada and the United States, the local element was just as crucial to the event’s success. Podolchak is quick to point out how all facets of Kelowna’s community came together, representing a solid sense of team spirit that truly helped to set the tone for such a memorable time,
“The entire Kelowna community and the business community were absolutely amazing. We had so many selfless and caring volunteers helping us at the event, and so many businesses from Kelowna who have given us incredible donations. We could not have done it without each and every one of them.
Our extended community was crucial as well, from various places in Canada and the US, everyone who traveled to take part and be there to support our cause. They were all an integral part of the weekend’s success and helping us reach our goal of sponsoring 10 girls this year!”
With the shared sense of victory in being able to reach its sponsorship goals represents an importance milestone for Grindstone, there is also a heightened importance. Subsequently, one of the results is an increased awareness, which brings with it more aspiring players looking for compassionate assistance. As Rasmussen discusses, such a challenge serves as a strong sense of motivation, validating their current efforts, while exemplifying that there is potential to reach greater heights,
“The Grindstone Award Foundation doubled its goal of fundraising this year by raising more than $10,000, leading to greater awareness of our charity. As a result, we have had many more applicants than we can currently give grants to. Seeing the need just makes us want to work harder to keep girls playing hockey.”
Such sentiment is shared by Podolchak, whose tireless efforts were gratified in the goals reached. Undoubtedly, the knowledge that the sponsorship efforts shall ensure a group of girls the chance to participate during the 2017-18 season is one that stands out as the most rewarding element of her proud involvement with the Fundraiser,
“The fact that we can help 10 girls get on and stay on the ice. All the hard work makes this worth every single minute. ”
While Grindstone’s raison d’etre is one of compassion, looking to give back and help make the game accessible for those who otherwise would have been isolated from the experience, the feeling of friendship and acceptance during the fundraiser also involved the admirable individuals whose efforts made this fundraiser a reality.
Reflecting on the numerous heartwarming aspects of the Fundraiser, Podolchak mentions that her favorite moment at the Fundraiser was one of a reciprocal nature. Albeit unexpected, the gift of a painted helmet was the kind of gesture that embodied the purpose of this event. While such a gift is destined to be cherished by the Foundation, symbolically reminding all involved of its efforts, it is also a unique artifact that shall eternally represent the first annual Fundraiser.
“My favourite moment was when one of the participating adult teams in the charity tournament gave us a helmet they had painted with all their names on it to.
They did this to say thank you for organizing an event that promoted women’s equality in sport, along with providing an opportunity where they could provide support to girls in need. It was a touching moment.
Along with so many other moments, this one stood out because I could see the joy in their faces when they gave it to me. That look of joy meant a lot to me. I was so happy that we could all come together and do something we all believed in and have fun doing it.”
While Grindstone ponders the future with a combination of optimism and encouragement, the success of this fundraiser has only helped to further its heartwarming mission. Although Rasmussen is averse to proclaiming victory, she sees many positives that emanated from this fundraiser.
With such momentum, Rasmussen is confident that the future certainly holds bigger and brighter achievements. Jubilant at the sense of community and teamwork that were the cornerstones of a successful fundraiser, she definitely subscribes to the notion that the game’s destiny shall definitely be in a more favorable position in a unified effort towards a mutual goal based on dignity, grace and perseverance.
“Perhaps it’s too soon to call it our legacy, but I hope it is the idea that we can make women’s hockey stronger by supporting each other. Our charity weekend had such a positive vibe, everyone was commenting on how good it felt to be around women who wanted to see others succeed. I hope this is the legacy, our Grindstone Culture.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grindstoneawardfoundation/