Seven Finalists Named for Hockey Humanitarian Award

Seven finalists are up for the 2010 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award.

The group includes Colgate senior Ethan Cox, Amherst senior Kirsten Dier, Alaska senior Dion Knelsen, Adrian junior Sam Kuzyk, Williams senior Zachary Miller, Connecticut College junior Brigid O’Gorman and Denver senior Brandon Vossberg.

The award, given annually to the college hockey player what most personifies community spirit through leadership, effort and time, will be named on April 9 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Following is a brief bio on each of the finalists provided by the Hockey Humanitarian Award administration:

Ethan Cox

From Richmond, British Columbia, Cox began giving back to the community the moment he arrived at Colgate, becoming the team’s leader when it comes to community and charitable events. He has helped raise over $14,000 in cash and donated items for local and national charities; in 2007-2008 alone, he raised $25,000 for the American Cancer Society. Last November, his annual (combined) canned goods and toy drive netted its best result yet, raising over 1,000 non-perishable food items, 150 toys (donated to the Interfaith Holiday Project) and $650 in cash. “Without our fans, these events wouldn’t be possible,” said Cox, deflecting praise. “It speaks volumes on the local community that we can gather around a common cause and help the less fortunate during the holidays.”

Kirsten Dier

A native of Appleton, Wis., Dier is a champion on and off the ice. What did she do as a follow-up to leading her team to the NCAA Division III women’s title last year? How about volunteering in West Africa over the summer, where she acted as a medical assistant taking vitals, administering immunizations and performing procedures under physician supervision. She even made time to help build a new foundation and roof for a school classroom. Back at Amherst, when not performing brilliantly on the ice and in the classroom, Dier has served as a soup kitchen volunteer, worked with Habitat for Humanity on five different occasions, and helped with Amherst’s annual Change for Change drive, which raises funds for local charities. Said coach Jim Plumer: “A coach can go an entire lifetime without meeting someone of Kirsten’s caliber; I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with her. She embodies compassion for all of God’s creatures.”

Dion Knelsen

Some may find Fairbanks to be a quiet and unassuming place. How fitting, for that’s exactly how Knelsen goes about his humanitarian work. From Three Hills, Alberta, Knelsen had already developed a deep devotion to visiting senior citizens going back to his high school and junior hockey days, and he has carried that same passion and inspiration through his four years in college. Once a week he visits elder citizens at the Denali Center, bringing with him his enthusiasm and infectious joy. “It’s so easy to forget about them,” said Knelsen, “but everybody has worth. They may be older and not capable of working, but they are still very important.” Dion also sings regularly for a local youth faith group, has served as a youth mentor and often volunteers at a local horse farm where he has helped handicapped individuals learn to ride. Dion also reads to local students (“Nooks for Books”), teaches hockey to area youth and sponsors a child in the Dominican Republic.

Sam Kuzyk

Adrian’s hockey program is in only its third season of existence, but if Kuzyk is any indication, the Bulldogs are already doing things right. And so is Kuzyk, who in short order has become a leader in the community. No matter his impressive on-ice stats, the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native is scoring his most valuable points by helping those less fortunate in and around Adrian. Earlier this year, taking a cue from something he and his family did back home, he organized an effort to support a local family of five through the Salvation Army. He and his teammates bought food and toys for the family’s three children. “We got together a pretty good package,” said Kuzyk, “I really hope it made a difference for them.” Sam has also interned at a center for the disabled; reads to local students; and organized a Help Hockey Heal Hunger food drive, a two-day event which raised 267 items for a local food pantry. “Michigan has endured tough economic times,” Kuzyk observed. “It puts everything at a premium — even food — something a lot of us take for granted.”

Zachary Miller

Miller is a high achiever both on and off the ice, so it’s no surprise that he was the recipient of his high school’s Crocker Prize, which recognizes excellence in extracurricular activities and commitment to service. His on-ice and academic achievements notwithstanding, the Bridgeton, N.J., native has made an impressive impact when it comes to community service. Among his accomplishments: organizing a pledge drive to raise tuition assistance for the children of United States soldiers who’ve lost their lives; creating and directing ASPIRE — a program pairing students with disadvantaged local children to provide friendship and mentoring; and starting a program called Best Buddies — which has men’s and women’s hockey teams engaging the local handicapped population in skating and hockey sessions. He’s even made time to help low-income families fill out their tax returns.

Brigid O’Gorman

O’Gorman’s humanitarian efforts reach across borders. Last spring, she traveled to Uganda to deliver medical and school supplies, clothing, money and much-needed medical care to orphaned children. She even provided soccer balls. Ever creative, O’Gorman also took tree branches and made hockey sticks out of them for the children. “I had hockey sticks in Africa,” said a joyous O’Gorman, a native of Eden, N.Y. “I taught the kids to play hockey, and they had never seen anything like it before. That was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip.” Back home, O’Gorman stays every bit as active in her collegiate community by volunteering to assist the disabled at the High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center in Old Lyme, Conn. Further proof that Brigid is a leader: She was selected team captain though she’s still a junior. Seems her own teammates know a winner when they see one.

Brandon Vossberg

For three seasons running, the St. Paul, Minn., native has been the recipient of his team’s Most Active in Community Service Award. A two-time WCHA All Academic Team member, Vossberg earns equally high marks when it comes to giving. As a high school and junior player, Vossberg donated his time whenever possible to worthy causes, such as Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He even bagged groceries to raise money for local charities. Since arriving at DU, Vossberg has volunteered at Denver’s Children’s Hospital during the holidays, volunteering at the hospital’s “Make-a-Wish” store. He has also worked with the Starlight Starbright Foundation, which helps better the lives of terminally ill children. In his “spare” time, Vossberg coaches through the Denver youth hockey program, and has lent a hand to the RBC Skate for Kids program. This spring, he intends to work with The Bridge Project, which helps inner city kids in the Denver area achieve their academic potential and graduate from high school.


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