Five finalists have been pared down from the 15 nominees for the 2003 Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented anually to “college hockey’s finest citizen” during Frozen Four weekend. The announcement of this year’s recipient will be made Friday, April 11 in Buffalo, N.Y.
This is eighth year the award will be presented, starting in 1996 with Boston University goalie J.P. McKersie. He was followed by Michigan defenseman Blake Sloan, and Wisconsin forward Erik Raygor.
In 1999, RIT defenseman Kristine Pierce became the first woman, and first non-Division I player to receive the award. She was followed by Maine’s Jim Leger, and Nebraska-Omaha’s Jason Cupp. Last year’s Humanitarian Award winner was Buffalo State’s Rocky Reeves.
A closer look at this year’s finalists:
John Flint, St. Michael’s
A native of Stowe, Vt., Flint began the “City Skate to Success” program in Boston four year ago. He has raised over $35,000 for inner city children from low income families to have hockey equipment and ice time, so that not only can they learn to skate but can also compete against each other. He also goes into the schools to talk to the students about drugs and alcohol.
Flint knows of what he speaks; he suffered from substance abuse as a result of his father’s passing during his freshman year in school. He turned to drugs and alcohol, and when the substance abuse became a serious conflict, he was asked to take time off from school to reevaluate his life and the directions in which he wanted to go. He left school and moved in with family members in Boston, and it was there where he began the “City Skate With Success” program.
Flint has since returned to St. Michael’s and he has brought the “City Skate With Success” program to Burlington, Vt. A business major, Flint plans to graduate in May and hopes to attend law school in the future. On the ice, he played JV hockey his freshman year of 1998-99 at St. Michael’s. Then, after taking the 1999-2001 seasons off, he played for the varsity last year and had three goals and an assist in 16 games.
“In my 20 years of coaching college hockey, I have not had the privilege of coaching anyone with the character and the courage that John Flint has displayed during his four years at Saint Michael’s College,” said St. Michaels’ head coach Lou DiMasi. “John has completely turned his life around and has become a great role model for his teammates on the varsity hockey team.”
Chanda Gunn, Northeastern
A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Gunn was one of the 10 finalists last year for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top women’s collegiate hockey player in the country. She posted a 23-6-1 record along with a 1.37 GAA and a .937 save percentage, and was named an ECAC All-Star. This year, she is a candidate for the Kazmaier Award again, with a 1.98 GAA and a .934 save percentage through the midpoint of the season.
In fourth grade, Gunn was diagnosed with epilepsy and didn’t pick up hockey until she was 14 years old. It didn’t take her long to excel, though, and by the time she was ready for college, she earned a spot at Wisconsin.
Despite posting a 3-3-2 record, 1.91 GAA and .933 save percentage, things didn’t work out for Gunn so she transferred to Northeastern. She saw limited action in her first year, while beginning her course of studies in Athletic Training and serving as the backup goalie. Then came last season and her emergence as a premier collegiate goalie.
As committed as she has been to improve as a hockey player, that is how focused she has been on helping others. Her involvement in community activities began in 1995 while still in high school in her native California. From 1995-98, she was a volunteer coach with the local mite and squirt teams and began teaching in the “Skate/Mommy and Me” programs. She also began working at summer clinics, camps, and preseason practices for the Cal Selects girls’ hockey program at all age levels. She then spent a year at the Taft School, where she worked in a soup kitchen.
Her desire to help in the local community continued when she began at Northeastern. During the 2000-01 season, she began assisting the local U12 South Shore Kings in the league’s initial season and currently assists the team with practices and in tournaments. She also participated in the Campus Clean Up Day and volunteered for the Boston Breakers in the initial season of the WUSA.
Last year, she organized the team to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and she remains active with the CFF and the Great Strides Walk, which raises money to help cure Cystic Fibrosis. In addition, she trained with a Hospice program to become a Hospice volunteer and aid those suffering from terminal illnesses, most with less than six months to live.
This year, she is an active member of the Northeastern Student Athlete Advisory Board, is a student mentor for freshmen in the athletic training program, and is in the process of becoming a Big Sister in the Big Brother/Big Sister of America Program.
“As much as a catalyst Chanda is for our women’s ice hockey program, she is having the same positive impact within the community,” said Northeastern women’s hockey coach Joy Woog. “Her contributions to society lead far beyond hockey. She does so much for others in her free time that I can’t keep track of it all.
“When a player dedicates herself to your team, her education and ministering to others, you find yourself cheering in her corner. Through her search to be the best person she can, she unknowingly challenges me to do the same. I believe she does this for many.”
Bryan Isola, Neumann
A native of Chester, Pa., Isola was first involved in community activities in 1997 while still attending high school. In that year he was an organizer/volunteer at his area March of Dimes run. He has remained active in that activity every year since.
As a Neumann College freshman in 1999, his extracurricular activities expanded. First, he organized volunteers for multiple dances for senior citizens and also became involved in the “Habitat For Humanity.” He continued to do that as a sophomore and junior. He has also been an Eagles Carnival volunteer, where donations from the carnival went to fight illiteracy in Philadelphia.
Isola has also served as the volunteer ice hockey coach at Unionville High School, has been a peer tutor of the ice hockey team, and has helped organize volunteers for the “Goals for Giving.” This game played last spring, featured women hockey players against the local police team with donations earmarked for the NYPD fund.
Last spring was a busy time for Isola as the “Goals for Giving” was not the only project for which he devoted considerable time. In addition, he organized and created an Alcohol Awareness Week at Neumann. One of the highlights of the program was an evening program in the gym during which speakers led discussions about alcohol at Neumann. He also collected and organized a donation of clothing, food, and books to the St. Edmund’s home for children with disabilities in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Bryan was also a volunteer instructor for the “Learn To Skate” program, and finally, last spring, he organized the first annual “Knights Fight Illiteracy.” This was a book drive during which over 500 books were collected and donated to underprivileged Hispanic children in Philadelphia.
As if these activities were not enough, Isola served as a resident advisor at Neumann. One of his major projects was developing and organizing an educational program for residents where they made sandwiches for the poor and gathered donations for baby food. He also founded the “Donor of Diapers” program for a homeless shelter in Chester, Pa.
A sports management major, Bryan has excelled in the classroom where he has a 3.67 grade point average. Entering this year, he had achieved Dean’s List status in five of his six semesters and is a recipient of a Merit Scholarship.
On the ice, he is a three-year letterman. Statistically, his best season was his freshman year when he had 3-3–6 in 20 games. Last year, he saw his most action with the varsity, playing in 24 games.
“In my 19 years of coaching, I have never coached a finer, more dedicated personal example of heart, character, and discipline,” said Nick Russo, assistant athletic director and men’s hockey coach at Neumann College. “Bryan has made everyone around him a better person, and I am honored to know him.”
Deanna McDevitt, Yale
A native of South Boston, McDevitt has been involved in no fewer than nine community activities during her undergraduate career with the Eli.
She participated in the AYA (Association of Yale Alumni) Community Service internship in Dallas, a two-month internship that took place from June-August 2002 at the non-profit Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. … She volunteered for the non-profit Hockey Ministries International. … She was a member of the servant leadership team of Athletes in Action at Yale. This is a group of Christian Athletes at Yale who meet weekly. One of their goals is to help organize community service activities for Athletes in Action. … She participated in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Mentor Program at Yale. … She volunteered in the emergency room at Yale/New Haven hospital one night a week. … She volunteered for the non-profit breast cancer organization in Connecticut. … She volunteered for the Peace by Peace Program at Yale. This is a community service program where lessons on violence prevention were taught to New Haven students. … She organized a clothing drive for Yale students at the end of the 2002 school year and donated the clothes to a local Baptist church. … She tutored high school students in math and science at Career High School in New Haven.
“Deanna has a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody,” said Yale women’s coach Hilary Witt. “She has seen how lucky she is and unlike a lot of people, she did not take it for granted. She sees how many people in the world struggle and will do anything to help people in need.
“It doesn’t matter who it is. Deanna will be the first person there.”
Academically, McDevitt has a 3.24 grade point average in the difficult Teacher Preparation Program at Yale while taking required classes for applications to Medical School.
Athletically, she has played a key role in the improved Yale hockey team. Two years ago, she played in 28 games and had 8 goals and 11 assists. She was named the team’s MVP and received the leadership award for the second straight year.
Then, last year, she improved dramatically over her sophomore year totals as she had 19 goals and added 16 assists. Again, she was voted the team’s MVP and, for the third straight year, received the leadership award.
Sam Paolini, Cornell
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Paolini’s involvement in the Ithaca, N.Y. community has been widespread.
In 2001, with the help of the Ithaca Youth Bureau, he initiated the “Special Population Skate” at Cornell. The program is designed to introduce people with special needs to skating and hockey. What is remarkable about this program is, it takes place for about an hour every Sunday from October through the hockey season, and it has since Sam first approached the IYB two years ago. He was involved with a similar program when he was attending high school at Choate Rosemary Hall, and he wanted to do the same thing in Ithaca.
Earlier this season, the Big Red, which has been ranked in the top 10 nationally, played a game at Vermont on a Saturday night. They took a bus back to Ithaca throughout the night and were on the ice with the special needs adults on Sunday afternoon.
Paolini has not restricted his community involvement to the Special Population Skate, though. He also initiated the “Power Play for Prevention” at Cornell. This program benefits the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.
His involvement with breast cancer is personal, as both his mother and grandmother have been diagnosed with the disease. In their honor, Paolini began the power play program in recognition of the support they received during treatment and recovery. Paolini approached the area’s largest bank, which agreed to be a major sponsor of the campaign by contributing $100 for each power-play goal the team scores. In addition, the bank is encouraging local people to make their own contributions to the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.
Involved in volunteerism since 1995-96 when he offered his help with the Kidney Foundation, and continuing from 1996-99 when he was with the “Special Population Skate” at Choate School, Paolini also initiated the HealthNow promotion, where he talks to the area schools about healthy living. He has also initiated the Skills Competition and Skate with the Big Red to raise money for the homeless. In addition, he has visited local schools to serve as an assembly speaker and has been a volunteer coach for Ithaca Youth Hockey.
Academically, he has over a 3.1 average in applied economics management. He has received two academic scholarships and was on the ECAC All-Academic Team last year. He is a member of the school’s athletic honor society and, last year, received the Richie Moran Award, which is presented to Cornell student-athletes who distinguish themselves through academics, athletics, and ambassadorship.
Athletically, he is a standout for the hockey team. A year ago, in 35 games, he had 15 goals and 18 assists. He led the ECAC in power-play goals, was named to the ECAC All-Tournament Team and was a Second Team All-Ivy selection.
“It’s extraordinary when a student would like to help, has a plan in mind, and then follows through on that plan purely on his or her own initiative,” said Christine Sanchirico, the executive director of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. “Sam has been that kind of extraordinary volunteer.”
“Not only is Sam an outstanding student athlete, he is also an outstanding human being as evidence by the many ways he has enriched the Ithaca community during his four years at Cornell,” said Barbara Hatt from the South Hill Elementary School.
This year, Paolini is the coordinator of the hockey team’s visit to South Hill.
“Sam does all these activities because it makes others feel good,” said Cornell men’s coach Mike Schafer.