Inspired by Teammate Mandi Schwartz, Yale Captain Has Led Efforts to Save Lives
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.), a senior forward and captain of the Yale women's ice hockey team, has been named one of five collegiate finalists for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup. Named after legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden, the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup is presented to two distinguished athletes -- one collegiate and one professional -- for their character and leadership both on and off the field and their contributions to sport and society. Hughes and the other collegiate finalists will be recognized on Wednesday, Apr. 25, in a ceremony held in the Egyptian Ballroom at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach, will be honored as the professional recipient.
Hughes' efforts to help save lives have been inspired by her teammate Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), whose battle with cancer has led Hughes to start a number of initiatives, including the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. Mandi passed away last April after battling cancer for more than two years.
Led by Hughes, Yale has organized a pair of major annual events in Mandi's name. The Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale -- led each spring by the women's ice hockey, football and field hockey teams -- has added nearly 2,500 potential marrow donors to the Be The Match registry and located six genetic matches for patients with life-threatening illnesses. The women's ice hockey team also has held a "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser game at Ingalls Rink each of the past two falls. Those games have raised more than $40,000.
Hughes started the Mandi Schwartz Foundation to help keep Mandi's legacy of helping others alive. In addition to the White Out, the women's ice hockey team raised money for the foundation by participating -- along with the Yale men's ice hockey team -- in the season-long "Goals for Good" campaign. Through that campaign, ECAC Hockey teams competed against each other to see who could raise the most money for charity.
Hughes is also her team's representative for Yale Athletics' Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Program and has been involved in many team events such as Youth Days and Skate with the Players. She and the Bulldogs also continue to spend time with their adopted teammate Giana, a local 10-year-old girl who recently had surgery for a brain tumor. Those community service efforts helped Yale, as a team, earn the New Haven Register's "Dave Solomon Memorial Sports Persons of the Year Award" for 2011.
An American studies major, Hughes is a graduate of Hotchkiss School. She was team captain and All-New England at Hotchkiss and also played for the Connecticut Stars, earning two bronze medals and one silver at Nationals.
In addition to the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, Hughes is also one of five finalists for the 2012 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award. The winner of the Hockey Humanitarian Award will be announced in a ceremony on Friday, Apr. 6, as part of the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.
Founded by Athletes for a Better World, a non-profit organization committed to changing the culture of American sports, the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup is open to athletes in all collegiate and professional sports. It is named after John Wooden, who won 10 national championships as men's basketball coach at UCLA. Universally regarded as one of the finest human beings in the world of sports, his character, conduct and selfless gifts stand at the highest level by any standard. When Coach Wooden learned about Athletes for a Better World, he gave permission for his name to be associated with the annual award and spoke at the inaugural event in Los Angeles in 2005.
Recipients of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup are chosen by a committee chaired by Vincent Dooley, former University of Georgia athletic director, and include more than 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country. Previous professional recipients include Mia Hamm, Andrea Jaeger, John Lynch, Peyton Manning, Dikembe Mutombo, Cal Ripken Jr. and John Smoltz.
The five collegiate finalists for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup this year are:
- Aleca Hughes, Yale University, Ice Hockey
- Josh Nadzam, University of Kentucky, Track and Field
- Roddy Jones, Georgia Tech, Football
- Tommy Chase, University of Notre Dame, Baseball
- Cody Reichard, Miami University, Ice Hockey
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity