Girls Finding Their Why Through Grindstone’s Women’s Hockey Foundation

By Lindsey Horsting @lindseyhorsting / Vancouver Canucks from Posted on March 09, 2024.

When Cadence Windsor started playing hockey just over a year ago, she didn’t expect it would change her perspective on life.

Before taking up the sport, Cadence didn’t know how to skate. She and her mother, Lisa, laugh thinking back to when she attended a Come Try Hockey skate, and she was the oldest skater by nearly a decade, but she had the courage to get her feet wet and learn something new.

“I was so nervous because the six-year-olds were so fast!” Cadence said.

Fast forward just over a year later and she’s working on backwards crossovers and her shot, playing for a Tri City Female Predators U18 C2 House Team.

In the spirit of lifting each other up on International Women’s Day Cadence and Lisa wanted to share their story in hopes of helping others.

The 16-year-old Coquitlam resident struggled with her mental health and while it’s still something she’s challenged with daily, and hockey has given her an incredible sense of purpose.

“Before I joined hockey I was in and out of hospitals a lot, and for psychiatric reasons I didn’t want to live. After joining hockey, it gave me a reason to get up in the morning knowing that I needed to go skate, go to practice and be able to see my friends. It made me want to live again,” she said.

Hopeful of helping her daughter find a light for her through difficult times, she enrolled Cadence in softball, and she noticed a difference for the better in her well-being. Cadence made some great friends through softball who played hockey and invited her to join.

“There were four or five girls from a U18 A1 hockey team on my softball team that inspired me. They’re such awesome girls so I thought ‘there’s got to be more awesome girls to connect with if I join hockey’,” Cadence said.

She asked her mom if she could play ice hockey and Lisa wanted to make that happen, but it wasn’t in their budget. The opportunity for Cadence to get involved in hockey was made possible by Grindstone Award Foundation, a charity supported in part by the Canucks For Kids Fund.

“It’s the most impossible thing when your kid does not feel like there’s any purpose to be here. It’s an impossible situation until she feels connected to something and I think it came about especially with hockey because it was such a major goal to accomplish. What I noticed with her was she cared about making a contribution on the team.”

“It mattered to her to get better, it mattered to her to learn to skate, and it mattered to her that she was contributing on the ice. I think it gave her purpose and I didn’t know where that purpose was going to come from when her mental health was so bad. If you had told me it would be ice hockey I would have never believed you, Cadence never played sports prior to this. I would never have imagined how important, powerful, meaningful hockey would be to Cadence and to our family.”

Grindstone was founded in 2014 by two former hockey players – Danielle Grundy (Dartmouth College) and Sasha Podolchak — who wanted to help lessen the financial burden for girls under the age of 19 play the game they love. The foundation gave out its first grant in 2016 and they currently award 200 grants of $500 each to cover annual registration fees.

The cost of equipment is another barrier to entry and the NHLPA Goals and Dreams Fund donates gear to the program to outfit 25 players and a few goalies.

Families that apply are required to share their financial information with Grindstone to verify they require financial support. There’s also a questionnaire for the girls to answer to share a bit about themselves and why hockey is important to them.

“I think they’re trying to make a deeper connection with the process which I really liked,” Lisa said. “We’re so grateful to this organization that’s focused on women’s hockey. The opportunity to apply and their generosity made it possible for Cadence to pursue the sport. Grindstone is having a beautiful impact.”

Lisa never thought she’d be a hockey mom, but it’s a place she and Cadence can connect and she’s loving the parent community as well.

“We have been so blessed by these teams because they’ve been so encouraging. I would be on the bench with the parents and every time Cadence did something new or touched the puck, everyone was cheering for her, it was amazing,” she said.

“I remember when she could finally skate fast enough to stay with the play, to see her be able to keep up and actually get the puck now is incredible,” Lisa said.

In her first season last year, Cadence improved and scored nine goals and this season she’s up to four so far. She’s a winger but aspires to be a defenceman just like Quinn Hughes – one of her favourite Canucks.

“I’m working on it, I’ll get there,” Cadence said.

Vice President of Grindstone, Jehan Jiwa, started with Grindstone in 2021 says they’ve seen an uptick in applicants since then. They’ve been able to establish a wider reach and with the financial impacts of COVID and more diverse populations wanting to get into hockey Grindstone grants are seeing more demand now than ever.  

“The Canucks For Kids donation three years in a row and support from the Canucks allows us to dream bigger. The hardest part for us is the number of people applying for the grants is higher than it’s ever been, which we’re super excited about, but there’s pressure to get everyone in so we aren’t turning deserving families away,” Jiwa said.

Grindstone is a completely volunteer based organization, and Grindstone President, Danielle Bell, says their volunteers and board members are passionate about keeping it that way to make sure every dollar that they receive goes towards girls like Cadence.

“Hockey is near and dear to me; I have two children that play and a daughter that plays. When you see some of the differences between the boys and the girls’ systems and what girls go through. My daughter played boys hockey for the longest time and then transitioned to girls hockey so I saw it through a different lens from a local level. I wanted to give back and am definitely passionate about girls involvement in sports,” Bell said.

“You really see the leadership that is instilled by a girl playing hockey. It’s not just hockey, it’s the fact that they have self-confidence, learn so many life lessons, leadership skills, and can take constructive criticism well. It’s not about hockey, it’s teaching life lessons and really, we’re helping future leaders of tomorrow.”

Intake for applications starts in May and grants are awarded in late summer/early fall.

To find out more about the organization and anyone wishing to donate to Grindstone Award Foundation can do so here:

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