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Yale's Aleca Hughes Named Winner of 2012 Hockey Humanitarian Award

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

Captain's Efforts Inspired by Teammate Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.), whose efforts to help save lives have been inspired by her teammate Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), has been named the winner of the 2012 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award. The award, which is open to every male and female NCAA hockey player in Division I and Division III, was presented to Hughes in a ceremony on Friday night as part of the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.  A senior forward and team captain, Hughes is the 17th recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

Mandi passed away Apr. 3, 2011, after battling cancer for more than two years.  She inspired Hughes to start a number of initiatives, including the Mandi Schwartz Foundation and the annual "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser game at Ingalls Rink each fall. The first two "White Outs" have raised more than $50,000. Mandi's parents, Carol and Rick Schwartz, travelled from Saskatchewan to Tampa to be a part of Friday's Hockey Humanitarian Award ceremony.

Hughes has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the value of marrow donation -- and umbilical cord blood donation -- for patients with life-threatening illnesses. She has been one of the driving forces behind the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale, which is led each April by the women's ice hockey, football and field hockey teams. The first such drive was held in 2009, shortly after Mandi was initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The three drives at Yale have added nearly 2,500 potential marrow donors to the Be The Match registry and located at least six genetic matches who donated to patients with life-threatening illnesses. The 2012 drive is scheduled for Apr. 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Commons on the Yale campus in New Haven.

This past fall Hughes started the Mandi Schwartz Foundation to 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. That campaign was started by one of this year's other Hockey Humanitarian Award finalists, Colgate's Kevin McNamara. The other finalists were Shawn Baker of Norwich, Tucker Mullin of St. Anselm and Cody Reichard of Miami (Ohio).

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 also has volunteered as a coach with Yale Youth Hockey.

Hughes and the Bulldogs also continue to spend time with their adopted teammate Giana, a local 10-year-old girl who had surgery for a brain tumor at Yale-New Haven Hospital. 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.

The 31st person to captain the Yale women's ice hockey team in its 35-year varsity history, Hughes led the team in assists (11) and points (15) this past season. She was among Yale's top four scorers every season of her career, and led the team in goals (a career-high 10) in 2010-11.

Hughes did not miss a game in her career, finishing with 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 116 games. She is in Yale's career top 20 for goals (20th), assists (t-19th) and points (20th). She has twice earned Yale's Mandi Schwartz Award for courage, grit and determination.

Hughes has also excelled in the classroom, and will receive her fourth ECAC Hockey All-Academic honor this year. She is an American studies major and intends to go to business school to learn more about non-profit management after a few years of gaining work experience.

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 winning the Hockey Humanitarian Award, Hughes also earned ECAC Hockey and Hockey East's Sarah Devens Award for leadership and is 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. The winner of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup will be announced Wednesday, Apr. 25, in a ceremony in Atlanta, Ga.

Hughes and the Mandi Schwartz Foundation were also one of three finalists in the "Community Organization" category for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports' Giant Steps Award.

Yale has had more finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award (six) than any other school. Yale women's ice hockey is one of just two teams to have two winners of the award, as Kristin Savard '07 won it in 2007 (Northeastern women's ice hockey has also had two winners). Savard and Hughes collaborated with Be The Match to add a marrow donor registration drive to the event.

Yale and the Hockey Humanitarian Award (six finalists, two winners)
2000:     Julianna Schantz-Dunn '00 (finalist)
2003:     Deanna McDevitt '03 (finalist)
2007:     Kristin Savard '07 (finalist, winner)
2009:     Crysti Howser '09 (finalist)
2011:     Aleca Hughes '12 (finalist)
2012:     Aleca Hughes '12 (finalist, winner)

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Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity