The St. Thomas University’s women’s hockey team recently hosted several fundraisers for Grace House, a local women’s shelter for women experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.
The team held a bake sale in James Dunn Hall on Nov. 17, which raised around $600 and a 50/50 sale at their game on Nov. 19, which raised over $200. Both fundraisers also received hygiene product donations for the women at Grace House.
“As women in sport, I think we have a great platform to advocate for other women in need,” said fourth-year player Aislynn Byers.
Every year, the women’s hockey team holds a fundraiser game and this year they chose to support the Grace House. Established in 2001, the Grace House is a shelter run by women, for women.
Byers, who took the lead on the team’s fundraising, says their choice to support the shelter came from a desire to support women, as a team of women. Supporting women in the community is a theme for the team, as last year’s bake sale proceeds were donated to breast cancer awareness.
“Our team really takes pride in giving back to the community,” she said. “I think we all understand that with the platform we have … we have to use it to advocate for these fundraisers.”
Aside from their larger fundraising efforts, the team also held a ceremonial puck drop before their game against Université de Moncton — which the Tommies lost 2-1 in a final shootout.
“It was more of a recognition to everything that they do for our community in Fredericton as they run the Fredericton homeless shelter,” she said. “So a little bit of an appreciation puck drop for them.”
The puck was dropped by Warren Maddox, the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Incorporated, which is the organization that oversees homeless shelters in the city.
“I didn’t fall on the ice and make a fool of myself, so that was great,” said Maddox.
Maddox has worked with the Grace House and Fredericton Homeless Shelters for nine years. Throughout his time with the shelter, he said that the number of women using the facility has increased — especially following the pandemic in 2020, which Maddox noted as the most challenging year they’ve ever had.
“It’s a constantly evolving ecosystem that we’re in and a lot of our time is spent trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing,” he said.
The Grace House helps support women and transgender people get back on their feet by providing food, shelter, mental health and rehabilitation services. Most importantly, the shelter is run and staffed completely by women to provide a safe space for those who need it.
“We know that we push the line in terms of restricting it to just female staff there, but it’s a ground that we think is pretty important,” said Maddox. “It’s a better environment for the women that are coming into the shelter.”
The shelter takes a personal approach when working with its residents. Whether they are dealing with domestic abuse, mental health issues or addiction, it is Grace House’s mission to address these traumas and “start working through them.”
While the shelter works with a pool of funding provided by Fredericton Homeless Shelters, Grace House is always looking for more donations.
“The donations are critical in terms of what our mission is,” he said. “Whether you’re St. Thomas hockey or whether you’re a little kid that ran a lemonade stand … it’s all critical in terms of helping a woman or a trans person move from that moment of crisis.”
Maddox highlighted his gratitude for the community support from the hockey team and the importance of this support for a good cause.
“It really is a group of very talented and intelligent young women that are giving back to the community,” he said. “Having them stand up and make a commitment to help an agency that is helping women is empowering.”