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Aleca Hughes, Mandi Schwartz Foundation Finalists for NCAS’ Giant Steps Award

Aleca Hughes. (photo by David Silverman,
Aleca Hughes. (photo by David Silverman,

Inspired by Teammate, Yale Captain Has Led Efforts to Save Lives

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior women's ice hockey forward Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.) and the charity she started, the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, have been named one of three finalists for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports' Giant Steps Award in the community organization category. The winner will be named on Friday, Apr. 6 as part of the NCAS' annual National STUDENT-Athlete Day celebration.

Apr. 6 marks the 25th celebration of National STUDENT-Athlete Day and its Giant Steps Awards program. Giant Steps Awards recognize individual student-athletes, professional athletes, civic leaders, coaches, community organizations and other individuals who exemplify the ideals of balancing academics, athletics, life pursuits and giving back to the community through the spirit of athletics.

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 Giant Steps Award, Hughes is also one of five collegiate finalists for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, 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. She is also one of five finalists for the 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.  The winner of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup will be announced Wednesday, Apr. 25, in a ceremony in Atlanta, Ga.

The finalists for the NCAS' Giant Steps Award in the community organization category this year are:

  • Mandi Schwartz Foundation, Aleca Hughes, Yale University, Ice Hockey
  • Swoop Stoops, Cody Reichard, Miami University, Ice Hockey
  • Washington University Speakers Bureau, Washington University Football Team


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