NCAA allows gay cross-country runner disowned by family to receive funds from GoFundMe page

The NCAA will allow Emily Scheck — a gay cross-country runner at Canisius College who was disowned by her family — to receive funds from a GoFundMe page and keep her eligibility.
The NCAA will allow Emily Scheck — a gay cross-country runner at Canisius College who was disowned by her family — to receive funds from a GoFundMe page and keep her eligibility.

After being initially told that her eligibility was in question, a gay cross-country runner at Canisius College who was disowned by her parents will be allowed to keep donations raised for her through a GoFundMe page and maintain her eligibility, the school announced on Friday.

Emily Scheck — a sophomore cross-country runner at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York — was disowned from her family in August after her mom found a picture of her with her girlfriend on social media.

Scheck’s mom told her that it was disgusting, gave her an ultimatum: Either come home from school and receive therapy or be cut out of the family completely.

Scheck didn’t want to leave school, as she had already moved in and was training with the cross-country team for the upcoming season, and wanted nothing to do with conversion therapy.

So one day soon after, Scheck came home and found her car had been packed up with all of her belongings from her parents’ house. Her father drove to Canisus College to load up her car and take the license plates off — as her parents were paying for the car insurance.

They told her to never talk to them or her siblings again.

Scheck was left with just $20 to her name. She didn’t have a meal plan, money for tuition or textbooks, or car insurance. She was suddenly alone.

“At the start it was definitely tough,” Scheck told Outsports. “I was lucky to be in preseason the first couple of weeks because coach could get us meals in the dining hall … We’ve had a lot of meals together.”

The GoFundMe Page

Scheck brought her problems to the coaching staff, who told her that they would try to help her out in any way that they could.

Yet months later, coach Nate Huckle and the school were still struggling to figure out how to help her financially. While she was on a partial athletic scholarship, it was nowhere near enough to cover everything.

So, seeing that she was still struggling, Scheck’s friends took matters into their own hands. Her roommate started a GoFundMe page explaining her situation, and set a goal to raise $5,000.

Any amount of money will help her to buy groceries, finance to finish school, or cover insurance. Help her focus on school instead of working to make ends meet,” Scheck’s friend, Grace Hausladen, wrote on the GoFundMe page. “No one thought that her coming out would have such a drastic effect. This should not be happening in today’s society. Help her feel accepted. Help her feel like herself.”

Within just nine days, the page had raised nearly $26,000.

A NCAA violation

Soon after the page took off, Scheck was contacted by a NCAA compliance officer from Canisius College.

According to NCAA rules, “a student-athlete may not use his or her name, picture or athletics reputation to solicit funds through a personal online profile or crowdfunding site, except as permitted by NCAA legislation.” In order for a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser, it must be able to prove that a “significant life event” occurred.

The compliance staff at Canisius College — which self-reported the violation to the NCAA last week — determined that the GoFundMe page violated NCAA rules, and informed Scheck that she needed to shut down the page and return all of the money if she wanted to keep her eligibility. If not, she would have to leave the team.

The school did tell Scheck that they would work with both her and the NCAA to try to find a solution, but there was no telling how long that would take to sort out.

“It would run the risk of it not even happening,” Scheck told Outsports. “There was no confirmation that we would even have our eligibility reinstated, or that I would get any financial help. There was no security.”

Because of the page, both Scheck and Hausladen left the running program at Casisius earlier this week.

Yet after spending the past week evaluating the situation, the NCAA determined that Scheck can in fact keep her eligibility. It had found enough proof that she had experienced a “significant life event,” and will allow Scheck to receive the money, too, it announced on Friday.

“Canisius College received clarification from the NCAA that Emily Scheck can retain her eligibility and continue to receive GoFundMe donations that assist her with living and educational expenses,” the college said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “The NCAA staff worked cooperatively with Canisius College to provide guidance that the fundraiser can continue, with school monitoring.

“NCAA rules allow a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser after a significant life event occurs. Canisius and the NCAA will continue to work together in support of Emily. She is a member of the Canisius family and we will to do whatever we can to assist her.”

Now that Scheck is able to receive the funds, her next move is to attempt to legally emancipate herself from her parents. Hausladen had closed the GoFundMe page while the NCAA reviewed the situation. But, with the help of Canisius and the NCAA, it sounds like it can be reopened without issue.

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