Today is the 25th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a day when we celebrate the accomplishments of women and girls in sports and recognize the need for continued expansion of athletic opportunities for our daughters. In honor of the day, I would like to dedicate my blog to a father who is working tirelessly to help his daughter, a hockey player, achieve her dream to play hockey in college.

“As Mainers, ice hockey is in our blood. The girls play as well as their brothers, but the school hasn’t budged to give them their own team.  We’re now in our third year of trying to get the high school to give the girls their own team.  It’s really my daughter’s dream.  She is a great athlete and a great skater.  If you put the 3 best girl players on a boys’ team, the coach will sit them out, but if these girls were on a girls’ team, they’d be stars.

My daughter played on a USA hockey team in Philadelphia 2 years ago.  She represented Maine.   What a big moment that was.  She was the 2nd highest scorer in that championship game.   She wants to play Varsity girls hockey.  But here she is being penalized because she’s a girl and the school won’t put together a team—even though there’s interest.

I’m trying to help my daughter and other girls at her school to reach their goal of being on a Varsity girls’ hockey team.  I brought together some girls and their parents three years ago with the principal and the superintendent.  I was told that we would need a budget of $150,000.00 before they could start up a girls’ team, so my wife and I started filling out applications for grants—we must be up to 60-80 applications so far. And we’ve done auctions, bottle drives, jewelry sales, car washes.  We’ve tried to get on Winter Expo at the ice rink where we’ve sold tickets and lotteries.  I’ve carved bird cages to auction off.   We’ve been working to raise money for the girls.  So far, we’ve raised $23,000.000.   We’re still at it.  We’ll see this through.  We’ll have it one day.”

Dennis Albert is still hopeful that he will be able to raise enough money to start a varsity girls’ hockey team, but the truth is that his daughter’s school has an obligation under the federal law known as Title IX to provide girls with equal opportunities to play sports, an obligation that they don’t appear to be meeting.  Instead, the school is making Mr. Albert and his wife bear a burden that parents of boys who want to play hockey don’t have to.  And it may be too late for their daughter, who is already a junior. There are many girls like Hilary around the country who are struggling for the opportunity to participate in athletics.  I hope that parents like Mr. and Mrs. Albert will continue their fight for equality and will inspire other parents, coaches, and advocates to fight for fairness.

Please take a moment today to reflect on the opportunities for girls in your own communities and how you can help ensure that they have an equal chance to reap the many benefits of playing sports. A girl that plays sports wins both on the field and off. She’ll have a decreased chance of developing heart disease, obesity, and other health-related problems. She’s more likely to delay teen sexual activity and pregnancy and to abstain from smoking or using drugs.

You can make a difference by urging your Members of Congress to support bills and programs that help girls be more physically active.  Click here to find out more.

Listen to Dennis tell his story on NPR.