Grindstone Difference Maker Award: Laura Oliver

Written by Sam Sgro

(June 5, 2022)

The Grindstone Award Foundation has changed the lives of many girls across the country and much of its progress over the past few years can be attributed largely to its President, Laura Oliver.

Oliver began her tenure with Grindstone as a volunteer. She was inspired to give back by her coach Bill Needham who was a passionate advocate for women’s hockey and always went out of his way to support the female hockey players in his community. After Needham passed away in 2019, Oliver found herself looking for a way to honour her beloved coach’s memory and that is what motivated her to donate her time to Grindstone.

Oliver first got involved in hockey because of her brother. She was initially a figure skater but when her brother started playing hockey, she wanted to give it a go and in 1998, she joined the Flamborough Girls Hockey Association. She quickly fell in love with the game and credits it for shaping her into the person she is today. She is astonished to see how much evolution there has been in the girls’ game since she started playing at age 8!

“Hockey has given me so many skills and experiences throughout my life and I believe that any girls who wants to play hockey shouldn’t be limited by their financial situation,” says Oliver.

Grindstone President, Laura Oliver, with PWHPA Player, Laura Fortino

Professionally, Oliver is a Senior Consultant at Deloitte where she advises organizations and helps them execute their transformation agendas. Her role as a business professional and someone who helps others has allowed her to bring that same expertise and vision to Grindstone.

Oliver was elected as the President of Grindstone only a few short months into the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a time of unpredictability for Grindstone, for the sport of female hockey, and for the world. Oliver, along with a few key volunteers, stepped in and continued to chart a path forward for the charity. This proved to be a challenge given that minor hockey was on hiatus, and in-person events, Grindstone’s main method of bringing in funds for its’ grants, were also on hold.

True to her professional roots, Oliver saw it as an opportunity and spent the next several months defining a new strategic vision for the charity.

Today, under Oliver’s leadership, Grindstone is reaching new heights. In the past year alone, the charity has undergone a restructure of its Board with several new members being elected to various positions, it has partnered on various initiatives with both the NHLPA and the PWHPA, it has surpassed the 150 grants awarded mark, and it has continued to grow so that they can reach more of the families and players that need them. It has been Oliver, through countless hours of her spare time, that has strategically overseen this vision and seen this progress unfold.

But the work is not done yet. She still has many wonderful dreams for the future of organization.

“I could talk for hours about my dreams for Grindstone,” says Oliver. “My biggest dream for the charity is that one day, we are able to support all eligible girls who apply for grants to play. Currently, we receive approximately 100 applications per season, and we have only been able to help around 25 per season. It would be fantastic if we were able to bring in the funds needed to support all girls who apply each season – that is when we are truly growing the female game and helping the sport!”

For all of her hard work, dedication, and commitment to Grindstone, we are honoured to announce Laura Oliver as the recipient of the Grindstone Difference Maker Award for 2022! Thank you, Laura, for being such an inspirational President and leader!

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Grindstone Difference Maker Award: Haley Rath