About Our Foundation
The St. Louis Youth Hockey Foundation began with a fundraiser holiday skate years ago to raise money to help young players at a St. Louis high school pay for playing hockey. It was started in memory of a young player that committed suicide. This young man’s only outlet was hockey. We wanted to help other youth to play the game they love, no matter their financial circumstance. Through that fundraiser, we found that many families could not afford to pay for their kids to continue to play hockey.
We started this foundation to help those families, and we help by offering a scholarship for young players. The funds awarded are paid directly to the hockey club they play for to offset their club fees. These awards are earned through good grades, volunteerism, and community leadership. The application process is designed to help individuals EARN their way to play, and help them not only grow into to great hockey players, but also outstanding members in our community.
In the past four years, despite Covid related setbacks and limitations we have awarded 32 player scholarships totaling over $64,000. Our goals for the future are much more ambitious and we look forward to being a partner with many families and hockey organizations in our community.
The Whole Story Behind the SLYHF by Coach Heff
(just in case you are interested)
Like most good stories, this is a long one, but I’ll do my best to make it as interesting as it really is, so buckle up. Hockey has been an important part of my life my entire life and like most my age something that if we wanted to play we had to find a way to pay. Our parents helped out as much as they could so most of us started with hand me downs and anything you could beg for at Christmas time. Because we had to work to help support our habit is why I believe we are all still so committed to the game. I played through high school and some in college then joined the Marine Corps to learn how to fly. After spending ten years in and playing with the Marine and Navy teams I could find, I chose to go into commercial flying which gave my wife and I the opportunity to return home to St. Louis. Upon returning to St. Louis, I joined my younger brother and started coaching at De Smet. I was originally coaching at the developmental level and enjoyed working with the younger players teaching them the game.
In early two thousand, I was given the chance to coach a second varsity team in Illinois that was made up of players that would have been cut or not given the opportunity to see much ice on the mid states team. A great opportunity and idea that allowed the program to provide a team for all the students that wanted to continue to play. Of all the teams I have coached, those were the best teams I have ever coached. Not the most skilled or gifted teams, just the best teams. While coaching that team, I came across one of those kids you can’t help but love and a reason to keep coaching Gregory Base, A.K.A. the Baseman. Not the most skilled or gifted athlete, but one of those kids that truly loved the game, the first one on the ice, last one off the ice, hard working, eager to learn, mop headed, somewhat goofy, skate through the wall if asked, third or forth line player, that wanted more than anything to just be a part of the team, and HE WAS. So imagine my surprise when he came to me going into his sophomore year, with tears in his eyes telling me he would not be able to play the following year. If not for the tears, I wouldn’t have believed what he was telling me. Only after I pressed him for an answer, did he admit that he and his family could not afford it. He told me that the money he made working went to help his single mother pay the household bills. At that point, I believe I was more heart broken and upset than he was. I was also frustrated to find that because it was a club sport (not officially school sponsored) that there were no grants or athletic scholarships that the son of a single parent would qualify for. His mother put his education in front of everything and why I have nothing but admiration for her and those like her. After speaking to my wife about this player I talked about frequently she insisted that we pay that expense. Like most all teachers and coaches often do, we went to the program and quietly paid the fees requesting to remain anonymous which was granted. My brothers and their wonderful wife’s who were familiar with the Baseman discovered what we had done and insisted on helping him and any others with the same circumstances out as well. They did and have, since that date in 2004, and why it has been for the most part a family charity created out of necessity. The Baseman suspected my involvement and only through his superior intellect, fact finding abilities and need to find who his “angels” were did he land on me. Deny, deny, deny, didn’t work and under the threat of torture, I was forced to name my other accomplices. With that he started showing up at our homes looking to cut the grass, weed whack, rake leafs, move furniture, what ever it took to pay back what he saw as his debt. Absolutely not required but inspiring, he more than paid that debt. This is why the charity now requires community service as part of St. Louis Youth Hockey Foundation based on that repayment.
Within that same year there was the return of an alumni skate for past and current players at the high school. The invitation list for current players was limited to the mid-states varsity team, so the team I coached was left out of this club sponsored event based on the number of players. I could see the disappointment in my teams eyes that they were going to be excluded from the skate and how it made them feel inferior. Another unacceptable situation that needed a solution, so once again we got together and went out and purchased our own ice, put it near Christmas, and called it the coach Heff Holiday Skate. All three brothers were coach Heff’s at some point in the hockey community and we invited all to join us. It was more than an amazing time filled with memories, big lies, and the standard you should have seen me when’s. Of course the first one in was always the Baseman, who was quick to respond with “I’m in and my line starts” and it always did. Without fail every year this same group along with any others wanting to join showed up to just play the game they loved with those they played with and against.
Unfortunately, on August 31st 2009, the Baseman who had been struggling with a mental illness unbeknownst to me and his hockey brothers, made the horrific decision to take his own life. Shattered at the news, I was unsure if I could continue with the Holiday Skate after suffering that tragic loss. The calls and requests from fellow teammates, participants, and family members to continue the skate in his honor were overwhelming. I decided to continue what apparently had become a tradition and opportunity for all these outstanding individuals to get together during their time home and off during the holiday season. Mom Base always showed up to hand out hugs and visit with those she now called “her boys”. Some of those players were those we had helped out in the past and now demanded to donate money, so that we could continue to help even more players that may be in need. That’s when I took that donated money to the board and set up the Baseman Fund. A fund that could be used when no other resources were available for a player to continue to play no matter their ability. As the years and popularity of the skate continued to grow, I counted more and more on my family to help plan, organize, and pull off the event.
After 20 years at DeSmet, I decided to retire from coaching high school and moved back to coaching at an earlier developmental age program. I left the fund with the program, but continued with the holiday skate. In 2018, I was approached by my sister in law Kristin, who was looking for a charity that she could get involved with in memory of their sons Caden and Lane, that were lost in a premature birth. Her involvement and generosity with the Holiday skate along with her desire to help more hockey players, made her the easy choice to start up and head the St. Louis Youth Hockey Foundation. The newly set up 501-3C charity was now set up to help any hockey players who want to stay in the game and need a helping hand, not a hand out. We decided to take the money donated at the holiday skate and use it to help those who had already been in the game like the Baseman and didn’t have all the resources to do so. There are numerous learn to skate programs, but limited continue to play opportunities. In the spirit of the Baseman, we require those who receive the grants (that are payed directly to the programs) to perform community service. To date all recipients who are personally responsible for doing the community service themselves (no help from mom or dad) have out performed the requested hours.
The grant is not based on the players ability or some parental financial level. It is a need based grant, and the names of the players are kept confidential by the acting board members. The board includes Kristin, as the President (Superior choice), me as, Exalted Grand Poohbah (Flintstones) or Vice President, family members, coaches, hockey parents, financial advisors and corporate business advisors. The board receives no compensation and 100% of the money raised goes directly to the players and any minor administrative costs.
We have expanded from our yearly holiday skate to include our first annual golf tournament in 2022. For our first event outside the reliable holiday skate, it was a huge success based mostly on those who are and have been involved from the start. Through their support in spreading the word and drawing others in we have and will continue to grow. We are not only gaining huge support within the close-knit hockey community, we are also gaining corporate support, allowing us to consistently expand our outreach. Our commitment to help more and more players is at the forefront of our mission and why under the guidance of our amazing leadership (Kristin) we will always do our best to lend a hand, not a hand out. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! If you can help, please do and if you need help please ask.
Thanks for all you are, and all you do.