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NCAA athlete disowned by family able to keep GoFundMe donations

College sophomore and Division I athlete Emily Scheck, 19, was disowned and left with just $20 to her name after her family found out she has a girlfriend.
From left to right, Grace Hausladen, Emily Scheck, Justyna Wilkinson.
From left to right, Grace Hausladen, Emily Scheck and Justyna Wilkinson.Mike Pesarchick for The Griffin

After her parents learned she has a girlfriend, Emily Scheck, 19, a college sophomore and Division I athlete, was disowned by them in August, right before the start of the school year. She said she was left with just $20 to her name.

In an interview published last week, Scheck told LGBTQ sports site OutSports that her mother had given her an ultimatum after finding out that Scheck has a girlfriend: come home and receive therapy or be cut off from the family. Scheck chose the latter.

“At the start it was definitely tough,” Scheck, a cross-country runner at Canisius College, told Outsports. “I was lucky to be in preseason the first couple of weeks because coach could get us meals in the dining hall.” Canisius is a Catholic college in Buffalo, New York.

After hearing about Scheck’s dire situation, her teammate Grace Hausladen started a GoFundMe campaign earlier this month to help raise money so Scheck could pay for her basic living expenses.

“Emily has no home, and has no family supporting her,” Hausladen wrote on the "For Emily, Let her be herself" GoFundMe page. “In 2019, she will no longer be on her parents health care plan and will have a whole new set of expenses to be covered. She was kicked out of her home for being herself. No one deserves to have their home and siblings taken away from them for being their true selves. Though she has made a new home in Buffalo through her teammates and her girlfriend, Justyna, we can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

The fundraising campaign quickly surpassed its initial $5,000 goal, but there was a problem: accepting the donated funds was in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.

“Sadly, because both Emily and I are both Division I runners, accepting this money means we are not longer eligible to run for Canisius College's Cross Country and Track programs due to the regulations of the NCAA,” Hausladen announced in a GoFundMe update posted on Nov. 11. “However, Emily and I both came to the decision that this money can help her more than running or the school ever will. With this money, Emily will be able to buy her books, pay her tuition, purchase health and car insurance, pay her phone bill, or her rent.”

But on Nov. 16, the same day Outsports first reported Scheck’s story, the NCAA had a change of heart.

“Emily Scheck can retain her eligibility and continue to receive GoFundMe donations that assist her with living and educational expenses,” the association shared via Twitter on Friday. “NCAA staff worked with Canisius College to provide guidance that the fundraiser can continue with school monitoring and will continue to assist as needed. NCAA rules and waiver precedent allow a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser after a significant life event occurs.”

Canisius College also shared a statement on Friday about the updated decision, which permits Scheck to both retain her sports eligibility and accept the donations to assist with her living and educational expenses.

“Canisius and the NCAA will continue to work together in support of Emily,” the school stated. “She is a member of the Canisius family and we will to do whatever we can to assist her.”

Neither Scheck nor Hausladen immediately responded to NBC News' request for comment.

Hausladen posted an update to the GoFundMe page over the weekend, informing supporters of the updated decision and letting them know the page was once again accepting donations.

“Love is love,” Hausladen added with a heart emoji.

As of Monday afternoon, 1,667 people had helped raise nearly $65,000 for Emily Scheck.