Sean Grevy Jr. latched onto hockey at a young age.
Before he was even attending school, he was on the ice. But growing up in the projects in Philadelphia, his family’s monetary situation held him back.
“I always loved hockey and I played it nonstop, but I was definitely restricted to have access to the sport the way other players were and not just from an ice time standpoint, but also just really from a connection standpoint,” Grevy said.
Grevy, now 34 years old, returned to the ice on a mission: to help kids who face obstacles similar to what he dealt with growing up.
In 2017, Grevy launched 43 OAK Foundation, a project focused on assisting underprivileged and minority athletes who wish to further their education through ice hockey.
The foundation is a non-profit organization serving student-athletes ages 12-22. Although it’s based in New York City, the organization aids players from 16 states.
43 OAK Foundation isn’t a hockey team, and the players don’t compete together in tournaments. It’s an ecosystem aimed to help these players — the majority of whom play for Tier I AAA programs — from wherever they are living.
“It’s a network of players that can lean on one another in times of trouble and we can support them and get them what they need, tools that they need to be successful in life,” said Grevy, whose day job is running 43 OAK’s advertising agency. “Our goal specifically is more to facilitate the hockey player’s journey and make sure they’re not stifled or limited or restricted from entry into this sport.”
The foundation started a half decade ago with five to six families and has now increased to over 120. One major reason for the rise in participation was the involvement of the NHL’s New York Islanders and UBS, a financial services company, two years ago.
The support from those two organizations has been program-changing for the 43 OAK Foundation.
“What coach Sean is able to accomplish on the ice with the support of hockey organizations like the New York Islanders for the young men and women in his program is fantastic,” said Anneliese Mesilati, head of brand activation, sponsorship and events for UBS Americas.
43 OAK Foundation has a few core principles, according to Grevy.
The main one is mentorship, above all else.
“These kids need mentors in their lives, they need people that are going to look after them,” Grevy said. “Honestly, it’s the most important part of the program — it’s more important than hockey. The financial part starts in the sense that we help them get individualized training, more ice time so that they can get better at their craft, get better at the game. Then the connection part comes in where we’re able to reach out to higher level, top-tier programs.”
Grevy said there has never been an issue with helping an athlete achieve the goal of playing.
“We’re just here to support these kids in their journey,” Grevy said.
When Sky Silverstein got involved with the 43 OAK Foundation in 2018, there were just a handful student-athletes taking advantage of the benefits.
“I was on the older side when I joined the foundation, so immediately I was kind of helping Sean out while I was playing and I was playing with kids younger than me,” Silverstein said. “Having Sean mentor me, and then me being able to kind of pass on what Sean says to the other kids in the foundation who were young was pretty special.”
Silverstein, who grew up in Long Island, New York, was a part of the foundation for two years before heading off to college. He played NCAA Division III men’s hockey at UMass-Dartmouth before graduating this past May.
When Silverstein was wrapping up his college degree, he was contacted by Grevy. The 43 OAK Foundation founder wanted Silverstein to be the organization’s executive director.
Silverstein had first-hand knowledge of the program and how impactful it can be for the players. Plus, Silverstein knows exactly what the athletes are going through because he’s been in their shoes. It was a perfect fit.
“It helps me because it just makes it feel more relatable, not even just for myself but for them,” Silverstein said. “These kids are not only people that I’m helping, but now they’re adults. They help me too in some ways. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship for everybody involved.”
With a trusted executive director now in place, Grevy feels good about the direction of the foundation.
Grevy has been surprised by the success of the organization in just a short amount of time when he first got it started in 2018.
“I look at it from a non-profit standpoint and I say, ‘Where do I want to be in five years?’ I could never have imagined being here,” Grevy said.
The program has achieved positive case after positive case with so many players over the years.
“This is life-changing; this isn’t just about ice hockey and getting to go out and have fun and shoot the puck,” Grevy said. “This is about changing lives, and we’re doing it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.