Team Honored with Newspaper's Dave Solomon Memorial Sports Persons of the Year Award for 2011
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's ice hockey team was recognized at the New Haven Register's annual MVP Banquet Tuesday night as the winner of the newspaper's Dave Solomon Memorial Sports Persons of the Year award for 2011. Former Yale captain Samantha MacLean '11, now a volunteer assistant with the Bulldogs, spoke on behalf of the team. Yale received the award in recognition of the team's humanitarian and community service efforts.
The Bulldogs had been announced as the award winner -- and featured on the front page of the Register's sports section -- on Jan. 1. Their service efforts centered around their teammate Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), who passed away April 3, 2011 after battling cancer for more than two years. The team has helped organize a pair of major annual events at Yale in her name. The Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale, held each spring with help from the football and field hockey teams, has added more than 3,000 potential marrow donors to the Be The Match registry for patients with life-threatening illnesses. At least six genetic matches for patients in need of transplants have been identified through the Bulldogs' efforts.
The team also has held a "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser game at Ingalls Rink each of the past two seasons. Those games have raised more than $50,000 combined. Yale's 2011-12 captain, forward Aleca Hughes '12, has started a charitable organization, the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, to keep Mandi's legacy of helping others alive. In addition to the White Out, the team raised money for the foundation by participating -- along with Yale's 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.
After accepting the award on the team's behalf Tuesday night, MacLean told the crowd how she and her teammates drew inspiration from a photo they kept in their lockers of Mandi, during treatment, riding an exercise bike next to her bed in the hospital.
"I would certainly describe Mandi as somebody who was incredibly kind, generous but most of all inspirational," said MacLean. "When people talk about Mandi, I think that's the first word that people say. Mandi inspires people."
The crowd included the local high school athletes who were being honored by the Register as MVPs of their various sports, and MacLean addressed them in particular.
"I'm happy that the team has been able to carry on her legacy, and that's being recognized," MacLean said. "I hope that as you move forward as student-athletes, in your athletic careers and life in general, that you will find the person and the type of people that inspire you."
In addition to their efforts inspired directly by Mandi, the Bulldogs also found numerous other ways to help others. They continue to spend time with their adopted teammate Giana, a local 10-year-old girl who had surgery for a brain tumor. Giana was the first adoptee in the "Bulldog PAWS" program that pairs Yale teams with young patients at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Rising senior forward Alyssa Zupon (Basking Ridge, N.J.), Yale's 2012-13 captain, helped coordinate those efforts.
The team has also participated in other efforts. In the spring of 2011 they supported the "Do it for Daron" campaign to raise awareness of youth mental health issues in honor of Daron Richardson, a Canadian hockey player who took her own life at the age of 14 in 2010. Rising junior forward Jenna Ciotti (Ottawa, Ont.) played for Daron's father, former NHL player Luke Richardson.
The Sports Person of the Year award is named after Dave Solomon, the New Haven Register sportswriter who died in a one-car accident last August. He had written poignantly about both Mandi Schwartz and the Yale team's adoption of Giana.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity