For many, sports provide a release in which nothing matters outside of the field of competition.
For Salve Regina sophomore Isaiah Carlson, athletics have provided an outlet for his talents to be used to reach out and give back to others.
Carlson was one of the record 25 players nominated last Wednesday for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s top citizen spanning both men’s and women’s Division I and Division III.
The desire to help others started with his parents, Reed, and Jan, who pushed Isaiah to use his pleasure in playing sports as a conduit for volunteer work.
“They just really encouraged me to use what I like to do to help people and make other people happy,” Carlson said.
“He understands that he is privileged as a college hockey player,” said first year Salve Regina coach Andy Boshcetto, who nominated Carlson for the award. “[His mentality is] how can I help others around me while I’m doing the thing I love?”
Carlson grew up in Kenny Lake, Alaska, and started working as a co-counselor and on-ice instructor at the Hockey Ministries International Camp in Soldotna, Alaska, his senior year in high school after attending the camp while growing up.
“It’s Christian camp for hockey,” Carlson said. “They always get some college and pro players to come.”
As a youth,Carlson accompanied his parents on several mission trips, going with a church group from Anchorage to help build churches in Mexico. He also went to Cuba through a baseball mission trip he found online.
“I basically searched the Internet for an opportunity to use sports for something I enjoyed doing,” Carlson said of his trip to Cuba, which he took with a group of college and high school players who came mostly from the Virginia area. While in Cuba, Carlson said the group engaged in mission work and also played several local baseball teams.
He continued his service work at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where he spent two years before being accepted in Salve Regina’s nursing program at the start of last semester.
“I was involved in a Bible study at Gustavus Adolphus,” Carlson said. “We were able to go to Nicaragua over spring break and help some local churches that our leader had connections with down there. It was a really cool experience; I’m interested in doing more of it in the future.”
The trip to Nicaragua left some indelible memories in Carlson’s mind.
“It was refreshing to see people and kids who don’t have the same material possessions that we have in the United States, but that didn’t really matter,” he said. “That’s what stuck to me the most about the trip, was people’s ability to be fully satisfied even though they don’t have the material possessions.”
Carlson isn’t the only one in his family putting their athletic talents to good use. Growing up in rural Alaska, he spent countless hours on the ice with his six siblings.
“We were basically a whole hockey team,” Carlson said. One of his older sisters, Sarah, played at Boston College and was the recipient of the 2005 Humanitarian Award while a senior at Boston College. Another, Hannah, played at Bethel College, while two younger twins, Naomi and Mary, could have played collegiately but instead took scholarships to row at Syracuse.
“When I was young, I was frustrated I couldn’t beat my older sisters in a foot race,” Carlson said. “That helped push me a little bit.”
While his older sisters pushed him athletically, they also inspired Carlson off the ice.
“I look up to them a lot,” he said of Sarah and Hannah. “Both of them are in nursing and they are a big influence for me trying to get my nursing degree,” Carlson said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing what they’ve been able to do with their [degree].They’ve both done different types of mission trips using their medical knowledge.”
While he said he hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as he would have liked to since transferring to Salve Regina, Carlson has already played a big part in many of the community outreach programs the Seahawks have been doing.
“We did the Samaritan 5K Run in Boston,” Boschetto said. “He helped out with that, organizing and setting everything up.”
Carlson and the Seahawks have dedicated time to Newport youth hockey leagues and helped shovel out elderly housing as well.
“He’s always doing something,” Boschetto said. “He’s got a lot of depth and he’s a diverse kid. He’s always willing to learn and grow. The kid is not shying anyway from anything, which is good to see. With video games now, a lot of kids stay to themselves socially, but he makes it a point to really work at doing things.”
On the ice, the Seahawks only have one win on the year, but have slowly improved, hanging in against Nichols, Wentworth, and Curry over the last week and a half.
After starting the year as the fourth line left wing, Carlson has worked himself up into the mix on the top two lines, and is currently paired with Curry transfers Jacob Hutt and Mike Cenisio. He’s played in 14 of the Seahawks’ 17 games to date, posting three assists.
“He’s a great PK guy,” Boschetto said of Carlson. “The kid motors. The three of them have been meshing well together; they each bring different things to the table.”
While he’s still got a lot of hockey left, not to mention finishing his nursing degree, Carlson said he’s planning on working in rural Alaska after graduating.
“I’m open to whatever, but I’d like to go back to Alaska and do some medical work, some type of public health service in a village,” he said.
In the meantime, Carlson will keep plugging along, balancing his school work with hockey and volunteer time.
“He’s finds a way to do all this stuff and on top of that, he’s a nursing major,” Boschetto said. “He doesn’t sell himself short, I’ll you that much. He keeps me motivated when I’m not feeling motivated.”