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KCR: Local passion project launches national organization

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

For Danielle Grundy and Sasha Podolchak, launching Grindstone Award Foundation was all about removing the financial barrier for girls to a sport that had given so much to them: hockey.

In 2014 they banded together in Kelowna to make a difference and started fundraising.

In 2015 they were able to give one local girl a scholarship to play hockey and since then their hard work, dedication and connections have made a huge difference in empowering girls and giving them opportunities right across Canada.

Just seven years later, this grass-roots organization is still run completely by volunteers but is a national charity, is awarding scholarships and gear to at least 25 girls annually and has directors and committee members throughout Canada.

In fact, the current president of the organization, Laura Oliver, is located in Hamilton, Ontario and she too has gained so much from hockey that she decided to step up when needed to take on the role of helping Grindstone deal with its explosive growth and dedicate her time to recruiting volunteers with specific skills sets and establishing frameworks to help grow the organization’s capacity.

Laura became aware of Grindstone when she was looking for a charity to make a memorial donation for her long-time hockey coach and mentor Bill Needham.

When she learned about Grindstone’s Girls Hockey Camps, she knew it was a perfect fit.

“Bill was a huge advocate for girls’ hockey and always went out of his way to support the girls he knew playing hockey in the community,” explains Laura.

“I knew that Bill would love what Grindstone was doing. When I learned more about the organization, I realised I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to give more.”

“I reached out to Danielle, the co-founder, to see about opportunities to build out the program in Ontario and then started to do more and more,” continues Laura. “When we needed a new president, I asked myself, “Why not me? Maybe I can do it?” One year, I definitely have no regrets – it’s been an exciting year.”

As a Business Transformation Consultant at Deloitte in her professional career, Laura is well suited to lead the growth for the non-profit organization.

“We’ve grown from 10-12 volunteers to more than 30,” says Laura. “We have been extremely busy keeping the momentum alive and putting people and plans into place. We searched out volunteers with specialised skills. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes and in a way, the pandemic has helped as it allowed us to focus on internal matters.”

The passion for hockey and especially seeing the opportunities available for girls is what drives the majority of volunteers.

“We have lots of dads who are volunteers, says Laura. ”One of our newest volunteers is a dad who has seen so much growth in his daughter since she started playing, that he wants to give back.”

“Our newest role is the outreach representative in each province, to build relationships in the community and engage families locally,” continues Laura. “Although we are a national organization, we want to have an open door feel and reach out to volunteers directly that know and understand the local market. We are not in competition with other local charities, but we are putting in the work to make sure all the hockey associations know about us to open up the opportunities for local girls.”

Recently the NHL Hockey Players Association and Bauer sponsored a full kit for each scholarship recipient and that has made a huge difference also. “I see potential with more corporate sponsorships to help meet the need.”

To learn more about Grindstone Award Academy, check out their website at www.grindstoneaward.com

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This past weekend, KCR Community Resources was proud to host the very successful Okanagan Volunteer Fair, which saw more than 800 people network and connect to find volunteer opportunities that matched their passions.

Thanks to all of the participants, attendees, volunteers and sponsors for making this great event happen live and in-person again. You can check out the information on participating organizations in the fantastic Get Involved magazine produced in partnership with the Kelowna Capital News.

If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at dorothee@kcr.ca.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources.

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