Though Mandi Schwartz ’11 lost her 27-month battle with cancer in early April, the efforts she inspired for leukemia patients across the United States and Canada are continuing through a new foundation created in her honor.
The Mandi Schwartz Foundation, an initiative led by members of the Yale Athletics community, launched its website last week to provide support for young hockey players diagnosed with cancer. As it works to increase awareness of cancer, the foundation will aim to continue the advocacy work and fundraising that thrust Schwartz’s cause into the national spotlight. In the spirit of “Mandi’s character,” the foundation will aim to generate financial support and organize community outreach for cancer patients in the U.S. and Canada, said women’s hockey captain Aleca Hughes ’12, who is spearheading work on the foundation. Harold Rosenholtz, the former Yale women’s hockey coach who recruited Schwartz in 2008 and a member of the foundation’s five-member board, said he hopes the foundation will celebrate her “profound generosity” and “tremendous optimism.”
“Mandi would have never asked for anything like the foundation, but she also recognized how valuable her name and experience had become to people all over the world battling cancers and other terminal diseases,” Rosenholtz said in a Tuesday email.
The idea for the foundation developed in March, Hughes said, when she and Schwartz discussed ways of preserving Schwartz’s legacy in the future. The foundation appealed to both of them, Hughes said.
Though Schwartz was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the foundation will support patients with all forms of cancer — coordinating cord blood donations and bone marrow drives, and helping patients with post-treatment care.
The organization remains in its early stages, Hughes said, adding that she is completing 501(c) paperwork to establish the foundation as a charity and allow it to solicit tax-deductible donations. The foundation has not yet released specifics on how it plans to pursue its goals and mission, and the website is not currently accepting donations.
“We’re slowly piecing it together — it’s a huge undertaking,” Hughes said of the foundation.
In addition to Hughes and Rosenholtz, women’s hockey head coach Joakim Flygh, former Yale hockey player Bray Ketchum ’11 and women’s hockey spokesman Sam Rubin also serve on the foundation’s board.
Flygh said the foundation still has legal and bureaucratic work to do.
“We all hope we can live up to her ability to really touch people with her kindness and determination,” Rosenholtz said. “Although we are at the beginning stages, we know that if we share Mandi’s outlook on the world, we can all impact lives.”
Efforts on behalf of Schwartz have already had a significant impact for cancer patients across America and in her native Canada. Her cause inspired Yale Athletics to create the now-annual Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registry Drive, and the three drives to-date have added more than 2,400 people to the national registry. Those drives have also produced five perfect matches for cancer patients worldwide as of April.
Despite its preliminary state, the foundation has already organized its inaugural event: the second annual “White Out for Mandi.”
Yale Athletics will waive normal admission fees and collect donations instead at the home game against Princeton, and attendees are asked to wear white to show their support. The team is currently seeking donor pledges based on the game’s attendance — meaning every person in the stands impacts the final fundraising total.
Princeton is also contributing to fundraising efforts for the “White Out,” Hughes said, and the goal is to raise $25,000. Last year’s event, also a Yale-Princeton game, garnered a record crowd of 1,066, and brought in more than $15,000.
The “White Out” is slated to take place Dec. 2 at Ingalls Rink.