Bulldogs give back

In addition to nationally ranked teams in men’s ice hockey, men’s squash and women’s squash, the Yale athletics program can boast of its significant contributions to the New Haven community this winter.

Although they have not enjoyed the same success in the arena as their nationally recognized brethren, the women’s ice hockey team and men’s basketball team have been heavily involved in giving back during the winter season. Associate Athletic Director Alison Cole ’99 said that many of the Athletic Department’s community outreach programs come from within the teams.

“We like to give the teams the freedom to get involved with whatever they want to get involved in,” Cole said. “My office will support them financially and logistically with whatever they want to do.”

Many of these ideas are sparked by events in the personal lives of athletes, such as the annual “White Out for Mandi” event hosted by women’s ice hockey.

For the past three seasons, the Elis have dedicated one game to fundraising for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation in honor of former teammate Mandi Schwartz ’10. She died in 2011 after a three-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Forward Alyssa Zupon ’13 said that the event, which raised more than $25,000 last year in donations, is a fitting way to commemorate her teammate.

“There’s the fundraising opportunity and it’s also an opportunity to play in Mandi’s memory,” Zupon said.

Zupon has gone one step further in giving back to the community. In addition to helping with the “White Out” and the annual bone marrow drive, Zupon helped start Bulldog PAWS in the fall 2010. PAWS, which stands for Pediatric Alliance With Student-athletes, was started by two current and two former Yale student-athletes. Zupon and softball player Virginia Waldrop ’12 joined forces with Mike DiLuna ’98 MED ’03 and Dave Gimbel ’03 MED ’08 to create the program, which pairs pateints in the pediatric neurology ward at Yale New Haven Hospital with an Eli sports team. The team then “adopts” the patient, according to Zupon, inducting them onto the team, inviting them to all home games and giving the child team gear.

“[Women’s ice hockey] adopted a little girl named Giana,” Zupon said. “We have birthday parties and tumor-free parties. We go to her school to support her at concerts and she is always at our home games.”

While seven teams have currently ‘adopted’ a child, the program currently has six additional teams on the waitlist.

Student-athletes have not been the only ones looking to make an impact on the community. Men’s basketball head coach James Jones has been especially involved in service opportunities this season. In addition to participating in Bulldog PAWS and Yale’s Holiday Gift Giving Initiative, Jones has involved his team in several other events to raise awareness for cancer and heart disease, including the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic tournament organized by National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Jones explained his personal motivations for scheduling the Elis to play in the classic, which raises money for cancer education and awareness programs.

“My mom passed away from cancer last year around the time I was working on the schedule,” Jones said. He added that he is looking into creating an event that would honor his late mother but was unable to finalize plans this season.

On Jan. 26, Jones and his coaching staff also participated in the “Suits and Sneakers” initiative, which is run by Coaches vs. Cancer, to promote cancer awareness. Both Jones and his brother Joe Jones, who is the men’s basketball head coach at Boston University, are competitors in the third annual “Shots from the Heart” event. Run by Collegeinsider.com, the Skip Prosser Foundation and the American Heart Association, the event pits head coaches from across the country against each other in free throw-shooting competitions, with each coach shooting 25 free throws at his own school supervised by an administrator. The Jones brothers are slated to face each other in the first round, and James made 22 of his 25 attempts on Jan. 22 for the contest. He said he does not yet know Joe’s score.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller won the 2012 “Shots from the Heart” Head Coach competition.

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