Guelph, Ont. - One year after the launch of the She's Got Game initiative focused on gender equity and advancing women in sport, donors and sponsors have made gifts and pledges totalling $1-million dollars to support female athletes at the University of Guelph.
The seed of She's Got Game was planted during a fundraising event in 2016. That initial event inspired a much broader movement toward equity in Gryphon Athletics – a multi-faceted initiative incorporating awareness, policy and fundraising.
Meaningful gifts and pledges from more than 100 donors recently surpassed the $1-million dollar mark according to Scott McRoberts, director of athletics at the University of Guelph.
"This is a significant milestone on our journey and we're extremely grateful that our fans and donors share this vision with us. Each gift, no matter its size, contributes significantly to our movement."
A primary goal of She's Got Game is to ensure women have equal access to scholarships, development opportunities and recognition. This year, a total of 87 female athletes will benefit directly from new scholarships raised through the initiative.
"We are very appreciative of the commitment by our donors to invest in an area that positively impacts student-athletes and their own experiences. There is a lot of momentum in the She's Got Game movement and we want to continue pushing ourselves to be at the forefront of gender equity in University athletic programs." - Scott McRoberts
A catalyst for the fundraising initiative was a significant gift by proud supporter Shirley Peterson who directed a donation to women's athletics after passing away in December of 2016. Peterson worked for the Department of Athletics for 31 years as an administrator and coach. Considered a trailblazer who led the charge for gender equity in Gryphon Athletics, her incredible body of work earned Peterson induction into the Gryphons Hall of Fame in 1992.
Alumna, donor and fundraising committee member Louise Ferrie-Blecher believes it was past due that universities devoted equal resources and effort to women's programs as they do for men's. The former cross country and track and field athlete is proud that her alma mater has taken the issue of gender equity seriously.
"I was so impressed to see that Guelph was taking this on and I'm extremely proud to be involved with this initiative that has already inspired so many to give. It's about leveling the playing field and increasing opportunities for women in sport. We will make sure that the continued success of this initiative is felt on campus, across the City of Guelph and well into the community. My hope is that other universities emulate this movement and follow suit in support of their athletes." - Louise Ferrie-Blecher
The multi-faceted initiative also includes awareness and policy components. With partnerships from local businesses such as RBC, Domino's, Planet Bean and One Tooth Active Wear as well as support from the Guelph area minor sports associations, school board and the Guelph Police, She's Got Game has raised awareness and unified the community.
The first ever Gryphon Domino's Pizza Day was held last year with money raised going to the initiative. Customers from all over the community had the opportunity to pick up a pizza and Domino's generously donated back $4 from every pizza sold. The community came up big. In the 12-hour window, Domino's served up an incredible 625 pizzas, resulting in a total of $2,500 raised. In February, 2020 the Gryphons will host the fifth annual She's Got Game Gryphon Women's Fundraising Gala, presented by RBC. In five years the Gala has raised over $85,000 to support women's athletics scholarships.
Beyond fundraising and awareness the Department has instituted policy changes around equal pay and supported the hiring of two new female full time assistant coaches. The movement has also raised national media attention and focus from other schools in the OUA.
"We are extremely pleased with the opening chapter of the She's Got Game story, but we understand we still have much work ahead of us to reach our $2.5-million target. It's exciting the trajectory this movement is on and the individuals we have been able to meet, bring aboard and positively impact to date," commented McRoberts.