The Brianna Decker Endowment for Girls Hockey is going national.
The endowment, which was created by Decker in 2018, started as a way to provide opportunities for girls hockey programs within the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association — in Decker’s home state — but next season, applications are opening nationwide for 8U and 10U female hockey organizations.
“It’s been really successful the last three years,” Decker said. “It’s been great to be able to give back to the youth programs in Wisconsin, but now teams from all over the country will be able to apply to the grant, so it can hopefully help with their programs. Personally, it’s been awesome to connect with the youth teams that have already been selected for the grant.”
Decker, a standout forward with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the past decade, helped lead the U.S. to two Olympic medals, including the gold in 2018. She created the first fund ever established within the USA Hockey Foundation by a female or male USA Hockey national or Olympic team member.
Since its inception, the fund has grown to more than $100,000.
“I had an opportunity to move back to Wisconsin, so I’m back in my home state,” Decker said. “I think being able to go to some of the rinks connected with a lot of the youth programs, but just in general girls hockey needs support, and they need support in Wisconsin, especially the 8U and 10U girls.”
Awards specific to the fund are used exclusively to develop programs focused on increasing female youth participation in hockey by alleviating costs around ice and equipment, advertising and marketing and overall development.
The applications are open nationwide for 8U and 10U girls programs for 2022, and the deadline for application each year is June 1. The fund was established in 2018 and the first award of $2,500 was made in the 2019 season to the Waukesha Warhawks, the organization where Decker played as a youth.
“Brianna and I visited the organization to present the check to them, and Brianna signed autographs and took pictures with hundreds of youth players who showed up for the awarding at the rink,” said Tami Tranter, chief development officer for the USA Hockey Foundation. “She didn’t leave until the last player in line had her autograph. She truly embodies what it means to give back to hockey and the community.”
For the 2020 season, the River Falls Youth Hockey Association was granted the award. During the current 2021 season, awards were made to both River City Youth Hockey (LaCrosse Flames 10U girls), and Spooner Area Youth Hockey Association.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were presented virtually on Zoom meetings with Decker and each of the teams.
“Even on a Zoom call, she did not disappoint,” Tranter said. “She gave each player the opportunity to ask her questions, showed them her gold medal and introduced her dog Missy. Prior to the calls, she sent each player an autographed picture as well.”
Decker is excited for the future of the endowment, but she’s also eager to meet players personally and not just through a Zoom call.
“If I’m able to be in my state and I’m able to be in contact with some of these youth teams, I think that’s going to be more life-changing for some of them compared to what I had when I was growing up,” Decker said. “I’ve had a lot of parents and coaches reach out who have benefited from my endowment, and they obviously thanked me, which is really rewarding. But being on the national team, I wouldn’t want it any other way, to be able to impact the youth teams around my area in Wisconsin and around the country.”
Decker said the goal is to help smaller communities and organizations, whose mission is to promote the enjoyment and competitive benefits of youth hockey, while also teaching fundamentals of hockey and fun play through education, teamwork, discipline, competition, respect and more.
“This is a great feeling,” Decker said. “I’m glad I started the foundation and I’m glad that I’m expanding it throughout the U.S. Hopefully, I can meet these teams in person going forward. It’s fun to interact with the girls and see the smiles on their faces.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation can reach out to Tranter at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 719-538-1164. Interested persons can read about Decker’s fund and donate online at https://www.usahockeyfoundation.com/deckerfund, and mailing is also an option. Checks can be mailed to The USA Hockey Foundation (Brianna Decker Fund in memo), 1775 Bob Johnson Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80906.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.