Yale senior Aleca Hughes has been named the 2012 recipient of the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award.
The award, which is given to a college hockey player who “gives back to their community in the true humanitarian spirit,” recognizes Hughes’ efforts to battle cancer on behalf of her teammate Mandi Schwartz, who passed away from the disease in 2011.
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As a freshman, Hughes skated on the same line with Schwartz.
“She was a role model,” said Hughes. “She was such a gifted athlete and she taught me a lot. When she came back after her first bout with Leukemia, it was such a boost to our team. She couldn’t play but just having her there practicing and lifting gave us a big boost.”
When Schwartz again fell ill, Hughes decided she needed to take action. She organized a “White Out for Mandi” fundraiser which raised over $20,000 to help the Schwartz family with medical expenses. After Mandi’s death, another “White Out” was held, raising over $30,000 for cancer research.
Hughes has also been raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donations. She organized several drives prior to Schwartz’s death in an attempt to find a match, and continues to promote the cause, including signing up donors at Friday’s Hockey Humanitarian ceremony. So far, Hughes’ promotion of the “Be the Match” registry has resulted in 2,500 new registrations. Six matches have been found from those registration, saving six lives.
“It really is so easy [to register],” she said. “And it can save lives.”
Hughes, who was a finalist for the award last year, concluded a successful hockey career by captaining the Bulldogs this season, leading the team in scoring with 15 points. She had 61 points for her college career, including 30 goals.
“What signifies true greatness lives within Aleca,” said Carol Schwartz, Mandi’s mother. “Our family will forever be grateful for the tremendous efforts she put forth to try to save Mandi’s life. What better attribute can define the quality of a human being?”
Hughes said she plans to stay involved in raising awareness of the need for marrow transplants.
“It’s a big part of who I am as a person,” she said. “I’m going to stay involved in the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.”
Other plans involve a graduate degree in business and keeping her hand in hockey.
“I want to go to business school and learn so I can get involved with a non-profit,” said Hughes.
“I already miss hockey and the competitive spirit,” she added. “I hope to coach one day. I love skating with kids.”
Hughes was selected from a group of finalists that also included Shawn Baker of Norwich, Kevin McNamara of Colgate, Tucker Mullin of St. Anselm and Cody Reichard of Miami.