PHILADELPHIA — It was the opportunity to play Division I college hockey that drew Jeffrey Reppucci to Holy Cross, but with his time at the Worcester, Mass., school coming to an end, he’s been casting his net out wider.
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He earned this award, bestowed annually by the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation and presented Thursday before the Frozen Four semifinals, thanks to his extensive charitable activity, and the skills he’s honed at Holy Cross have come in handy in that regard.
“So much of this has been a result of the atmosphere and environment and culture we have here at Holy Cross,” Reppucci said. “Being a Jesuit school, we’re all about commitment to others, and this idea of mission and service is something that starts at freshman orientation and is part of our athletic life and academic life and extracurricular work all throughout.
“Being in that environment and being surrounded by so many people thinking in the same way of being active in the community, it became natural to start developing these kinds of ideas and start thinking of the world in that way. And once that started, the service community and resources at Holy Cross were incredible for us in helping to make these projects happen.”
Reppucci is the founder and president of the nonprofit organization Students Helping Children Across Borders, which has helped raise funds for and execute infrastructural projects in five countries: the United States, Russia, Argentina, Haiti and Uganda.
The inspiration for that project came from a study-abroad trip Reppucci made to Russia during his first year with the Crusaders. During a six-week stay at a university in Moscow, friends the Russian major had made there took him to their hometown of Suzdal — about a three-hour drive from Moscow – and Reppucci was shocked by what he found there.
“They ended up taking me on a trip one weekend outside the city and into provincial Russia and into one of their hometowns,” Reppucci said, “And it was just really shocking to me because it was like two different countries.
“Now I was in these very rural, isolated, agrarian towns and something that really stood out was seeing how much of a problem alcoholism is, especially among the youth. And learning about their experiences and visiting schools and seeing this stuff really got me thinking a lot about wellness and health and made me think a lot about being a hockey player and being an athlete and how those experiences have helped me.
“That’s where the first inspiration started and made me want to keep in touch with these friends and do my research on these small towns and think about a project and how we could get to know that area and help that area.”
Reppucci designed and implemented a $22,000 community-based building project in Suzdal that focuses on fighting alcoholism among local youths by steering them instead toward sports and recreation.
It’s not just that town in which Reppucci already has made his mark. With SHCAB, he has raised funds and helped execute new sport-based initiatives for children in several other countries.
More locally within Massachusetts, Reppucci is also the founder and executive director of Working for Worcester, which last year mobilized 540 college students from seven area colleges to construct over $62,000 worth of infrastructural improvements at 12 of the city of Worcester’s recreation spaces.
Reppucci, who is listed as a senior defenseman although he served this season as a student assistant coach after being sidelined by an injury, was also a Rhodes Scholarship finalist and was a 2013 Truman Scholar recipient.
His leadership skills also have seen him win several other scholarships in his time at Holy Cross as well as service project grants.
Although Reppucci isn’t sure where life will take him in the coming years with grad school and his public service commitments, he is confident scholarships he has earned will allow him to continue on with the organizations with which he’s involved.
“This experience really started off just as a cool extracurricular entrepreneurial initiative and ended up in me starting these organizations,” Reppucci said, “And it’s just turned out to be a pivotal moment in my life.
“It’s really changed my life and really showed me what I want to do, to continue working this space both domestic and internationally with these developments. After graduation, I don’t know exactly what my long-term first official job or plans will be, but I will be pursuing some of these opportunities through scholarships as well as continuing these projects and looking to keep a lot of these projects alive.”
As long as the programs continue running and they stick to their core principles, Reppucci said he feels confident that they will continue to go from strength to strength.
“We started looking into this and thinking about how in order to have sports programs, you need recreation spaces,” Reppucci said. “And seeing that as step one in trying to establish positive recreation programs and opportunities for kids, that kind of became a natural starting point for these projects.
“Once we started working, we found that building stuff is a great way to engage the community you’re trying to help, so that’s been our focus: Mobilizing kids in these areas to not only take advantage of opportunities but to also participate in the creation and take ownership of these spaces and programs, and it’s been a great process so far.”