FARGO — Soon after Monique Lamoureux-Morando scored on a breakaway to tie the 2018 gold-medal title game at the Winter Olympics, and her twin sister Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the game-winning goal in a sudden-death shootout to bring home the first Olympic gold medal in 20 years in women’s hockey, the twins were asked by a mentor of theirs what they were passionate about away from the rink.
Monique and Jocelyne understood the timetable of success following the Olympics in South Korea, and knew it had a shelf life. The twins, who hail from Grand Forks, always knew they wanted to give back to the community that helped raise them by starting a foundation. The aspiration was a long-term goal that they thought was five years away, after they had wrapped up their hockey careers.
Now two years removed from the Olympics, the twins took the plunge sooner than expected, and founded the Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux Foundation in July 2019.
“Yes, scoring goals and winning medals is great, but for us, it's being able to give back and to help others and pay it forward,” Monique said.
Jocelyne and Monique led the charge in a gender equity dispute with the national team’s governing body, USA Hockey, in 2017, which became a public battle. The twins said they didn’t make enough progress, which fueled a passion to try to level the playing field in their community, off the ice.
That passion fueled Monique and Jocelyne to start a foundation.
The former University of North Dakota standouts were in Fargo on Wednesday to speak about their foundation at 1 Million Cups, a free weekly event to connect and encourage local entrepreneurs. It was the event's sixth birthday, and also Jocelyne’s son’s first birthday. Monique has a son, too, born six weeks earlier than her nephew.
Members of the community piled into Sanctuary Events Center to listen to the gold medalists. Girls players from the Fargo Freeze youth hockey association — wearing their blue jerseys — filled the front three throws at the venue, missing school to hear the athletes speak.
'Level the playing field'
Before the foundation came to fruition, the twins were involved with one of Comcast’s diversity and inclusion programs, Internet Essentials, which provides internet and computers to low-income Americans. They traveled the country, as their eyes were opened to just how much something like internet access can do for a child.
At the time, Monique and Jocelyne were impacting many kids in different corners of the country. After a while, they asked themselves what they were doing in their own community.
What were the three-time Olympians doing while they were home to make a difference?
That was the light-bulb moment.
The Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux Foundation aims to give kids a level playing field to reach their full potential beyond extracurricular activities. Monique said they try to look outside the scope of sports to where the needs really are in a community.
The foundation’s first grant was to the Grand Forks Public Schools. Monique and Jocelyne donated the meal funds to cover a hot lunch for students this year who qualify for free and reduced lunches.
“We want to make sure that every child going to school in Grand Forks is guaranteed a hot meal,” Jocelyne said. “No questions asked. Children shouldn't have to go to school wondering, ‘Am I going to get fed today?’”
Right now, the foundation is helping underprivileged kids in Grand Forks and the surrounding regions reach their full potential, mainly through education.
While many professional athlete foundations center around the sport they play, Monique and Jocelyne are taking a broader approach with their foundation, though it did start through hockey.
“If a kid is hungry, how do you expect them to learn? And for most kids to be able to get out of the situation that they're in, they need to succeed in school,” Monique said. “If they're coming from maybe a tough background in their upbringing, or they just don't have the same resources, if we can level the playing field from an education standpoint, that's going to ultimately help them be more successful in life.”
The hockey stars have always had strong female athletes to look up to. When Jocelyne and Monique were younger, their mom gave them Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s book, the former track and field star who has used her platform to give back to the St. Louis community in which she grew up. After meeting Joyner-Kersee as adults through the Comcast program, Monique and Jocelyne felt like they had the means to replicate that within their community.
Associated with the NHL
It's a busy weekend for the twins. They landed in Fargo on Wednesday and are headed to St. Louis on Thursday for the NHL All-Star weekend, where Jocelyne will be playing in the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 24, and Monique will be commentating.
This year marks the first that women’s players will have an event dedicated to them.
“It's a historical event for women's hockey, and to be a part of it is obviously exciting as a player,” Jocelyne said. “But it also means so much more for the next generation. To see women on that stage playing hockey is going to inspire more young girls to play.”
Twenty of the best female hockey players from the United States and Canada will be competing in the nationally-televised event.
“I think it's an opportunity to create a whole new fan base for women's hockey and to be associated with the NHL is really important,” Jocelyne said.
Jocelyne and Monique are still pushing to continue their hockey career, and hope to nab a spot on the national team. They are also working on a book right now, which is scheduled to be released in February or March 2021.
'A lot more than you think'
Growing up playing hockey, Monique and Jocelyne's father always told them to make a difference — whether that was making a big play or lifting a teammate up on the bench.
It's safe to say they've done that on and off the ice.
“Whether you’re going to school when you’re paying your child's lunch bill, throw an extra $100 for kids who might not have it,” Jocelyne said. “You don't know who those kids are, but there are kids in need. And it's a lot more than you think.”
When Jocelyne and Monique were in the process of donating to the Grand Forks school district, almost 39% of kids qualified for free or reduced lunch.
“What you consider a tight-knit community, you wouldn’t think it’s that high, but it’s very much the reality in many communities,” Monique said.
Raised in Grand Forks, Jocelyne and Monique were in first grade during the 1997 flood. Jocelyne said that devastating event taught the twins life lessons in itself.
“You don’t realize when you’re going through it, but when you look back you realize what your community can do,” Jocelyne said. “We’re proud to be from North Dakota, we’re proud (2013) graduates of the University of North Dakota.”
Thank you @1MillionCupsFar for having us come and talk about our foundation and what it means to “cheer for the one behind.” We all have the capacity to make a difference, especially when we work together to help others! #1millioncupsfargo pic.twitter.com/kNMVf0lfQj
Thank you @1MillionCupsFar for having us come and talk about our foundation and what it means to “cheer for the one behind.” We all have the capacity to make a difference, especially when we work together to help others! #1millioncupsfargo pic.twitter.com/kNMVf0lfQj— Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux (@LamoureuxTwins) January 22, 2020