League Honors Yale Forward who Fought Inspirational Battle with Cancer
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – ECAC Hockey has renamed its Student-Athlete of the Year Award in memory of Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), the Yale women's ice hockey forward whose battle with cancer inspired people in the hockey world and beyond to help save lives in her name. The announcement was made Friday, on what would have been Mandi's 24th birthday.
Mandi, who passed away Apr. 3, 2011 after battling acute myeloid leukemia for more than two years, was a three-time ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team selection whose gentle nature and selfless approach to life endeared her to everyone she met. She attended Athol Murray College of Notre Dame prior to Yale.
On Dec. 8, 2008 -- just four days after extending her streak of consecutive games played to 73, picking up an assist in Yale's 4-1 win over Brown at Ingalls Rink -- Mandi was diagnosed with cancer. She returned home to Saskatchewan for treatment, and on Jan. 8, 2010, after five rounds of strong chemotherapy and 130 days in the hospital put her in remission, she returned to Yale for the spring semester. She was planning to return to playing hockey in the 2010-11 season, but in April of 2010 she learned that the cancer had returned. She would need a stem cell transplant -- essentially, a new immune system -- to have any hope of long-term survival.
Even while she was sick, Mandi took the time to follow the progress of the teams she played for. At one point she wrote to her high school team, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame:
"I encourage you to enjoy every time that you step on the ice. Don't forget to play for the fun of the game. Every time you go for a skate is a chance to make yourself better. Do what you love most and have the time of your life."
In an effort to save her life and the lives of others facing similar illnesses, Mandi's Yale teammates rallied behind her cause. Starting in 2009, they helped organize annual marrow donor registration drives to help patients in need of genetic matches for stem cell transplants. They campaigned to raise awareness of the value of donating umbilical cord blood, which can also be used to help patients in need. And they held numerous fundraisers, centered around the annual "White Out for Mandi" game at Ingalls Rink. Yale senior captain Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.), who organized many of Yale's efforts, has also started the Mandi Schwartz Foundation to continue honoring Mandi's memory by helping others.
Mandi received a stem cell transplant using umbilical cord blood in September 2010 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. But a biopsy in December 2010 revealed that the cancer had returned. She passed away on Apr. 3, 2011 at the age of 23.
Just prior to that, Yale had named it annual marrow donor registration drive in Mandi's memory. These drives continue to be led by the field hockey, football and women's ice hockey teams. To date, the drives have added approximately 2,500 people to the Be The Match registry, including a record 921 in 2010. At least six life-saving matches for patients in need have been located through these efforts. One donor was a fellow Yale student-athlete, field hockey player Lexy Adams (Lancaster, Pa.). The date of the 2012 drive will be announced shortly.
ECAC Hockey's Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year Award goes to a student-athlete who excels in the classroom, participates in fifty percent of the team's games, and demonstrates leadership on and off the ice. Each head coach nominates a student-athlete, and a committee made up of school administrators has the task of selecting the recipient.
The Student-Athlete of the Year Award was first presented in 2007. Yale has had one player win the award -- Jackee Snikeris '11 last season -- and three other finalists (Kelsey Johnson '07 and Danielle Kozlowski '09 twice).
On the last home weekend of women's play at each ECAC Hockey school, the Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year finalists will be recognized on the ice as part of each program's senior weekend. This will begin this weekend as Clarkson and St. Lawrence cap off their regular-season home schedules. The winner of the award will be announced on Mar. 1 at the ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship Banquet.
For more on Mandi's story, visit http://www.yalebulldogs.com/mandi
Visit the "Be The Match" website at http://www.bethematch.com for information on how you can be the match for a patient in need
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity