To receive a humanitarian award from Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in recognition of her fundraising projects and involvement with New Haven schools, Kristin Savard ’07 yesterday stood where it all began: at Ingalls rink.
There, at a routine women’s hockey practice seven months ago, Savard told her teammates about the staggering number of deaths from complications of pregnancy in the developing world each year. Savard, who hoped to raise money to promote maternal health awareness, realized the unique resources a hockey team could use to spearhead a cause — a vast alumni network, supportive fans and a collaborative work ethic.
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“The team’s been a great resource in that we understand working together and contributing to something beyond yourself,” Savard said. “A lot of times, scheduled commitments keep you from doing these things, so raising money with this is a really good way to use something that we love to do and which we do all the time.”
Savard created the organization “Teaming Up” to promote maternal health issues in the Keiskamma community of South Africa. As a part of “Teaming Up,” the women’s hockey team pursued “Goals for Goals” this year, raising over $4,000 by soliciting pledges from fans, family and Yale students for every goal the team scored. The money will go toward the UbuMama — Zulu for “motherhood” — initiative, which seeks to promote dialogue about maternal health by empowering women in Keiskamma to design, sew and wear clothing illustrating the challenges of motherhood.
Earlier this month, the Hockey Humanitarian Foundation presented Savard with the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which annually honors one male or female college hockey player who seeks to actively improve his or her community. The recognition from Mayor DeStefano acknowledged Savard’s contributions to New Haven youth as well as her creation of “Teaming Up.”
Savard first became acquainted with the issue of maternal health last summer when she worked for Imagine Chicago, a nonprofit that collaborates with community groups to implement civic projects.
With the exception of last summer, Savard worked at Dynamic Skating hockey camps for kids each summer since high school and has also reached out to New Haven by tutoring local first-graders — contributions that DeStefano praised after the ceremony.
“I just think that there are a lot of students in New Haven, and they just pass through,” he said. “They don’t do what Kristin could do to connect with local school kids.”
As an outgoing senior, Savard said, she will continue to apply for grants and communicate with athletic organizations in order to advance the mission of “Teaming Up.” She hopes to enlarge the organization to include other colleges and athletic teams, she said, and several teams have already expressed interest in the initiative.
Former Yale women’s swimming and diving captain Meg Gill ’07, who serves as Yale’s representative on the Ivy League Athletic Council, said that earlier this year, Princeton representatives proposed that every varsity athletic team set a goal of raising $1,000 for a charity of their choice.
Gill put together a swim-a-thon in January with Savard’s assistance, raising $2,000 for the UbuMama project after the team swam 4,000 yards in 160 laps. Gill emphasized the unexplored potential for athletic organizations to contribute to charities.
“I think Ivy League athletes are positive role models for anyone, and if we’re doing something good our fans and supporters will want to be a part of it also,” she said. “Just by showing that we want to be part of the world around us, I think it can help people see that those causes are important.”
Standing on the ice next to Mayor DeStefano and four of her teammates, Savard proclaimed that the honor was not only about her.
“My teammates played a big part in this all along the way,” Savard said. “Our team is here to work with the city”
But while Savard emphasized the Bulldogs’ contributions to community involvement and the promotion of maternal health, her peers attributed the success of “Teaming Up” to her enthusiastic and compelling personality.
“Savard was a leader even before she was captain,” Danielle Kozlowski ’09 said. “Everyone talks in the locker room, but when it came to Savard, everyone always stopped and listened to what she had to say.”
A three-time Eastern College Athletic Conference all-academic honoree, Savard has led a team that won more games in her four seasons (54) than during any other four-year period in Yale history. During the 2004-’05 season, the team also set the record for the most wins in a season (16).
“I’m sure the rest of the team sees what she does and wants to be just like her,” assistant coach Kimberly Mathias said. “They all have it in them to do the same things too.”