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Yale, QU team up for Schwartz
Hours before screaming fans filled Ingalls Rink to cheer on the competing Quinnipiac and Yale men’s ice hockey teams on Saturday, the two university athletic departments united to support Mandi Schwartz, a forward on Yale’s women’s ice hockey team battling leukemia. The event, designated Mandi’s March, raised $4,000 for the Schwartz family.
More than 150 people, including Quinnipiac and Yale athletes, students, alumni and members from surrounding communities, participated in the march, held at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event took place on the Linear Trail, part of the Farmington Canal which connects the entrance to Quinnipiac’s York Hill campus to Yale’s Ingalls Rink in New Haven. Before the event began, $2,500 had been raised. Shuttles ran to bus participants from the end of the walk back to the Sherman Avenue start.
Schwartz was diagnosed with cancer in Dec. 2008, according to Yale Athletics. Schwartz, 22, was not present at the event. She received a stem cell transplant in September and welcomed good news, but is still in recovery in a hospital in Seattle, said Jack McDonald, an organizer of the event and Quinnipiac’s director of athletics and recreation.
About a year ago, McDonald met with Mike Schaffer, president of Yale’s local alumni association, the Yale Club of New Haven, to discuss holding a joint event before the Yale and Quinnipiac hockey game aimed to help an important cause.
“Sometimes the best of friends are the best rivals,” McDonald said. “Sometimes you compete the best with the people you like the most. Yale has been very good to Quinnipiac as we’ve gone to D1; their athletic department has been a great mentor for me and all of Quinnipiac.”
This is the first of a series of events that will take place every year, with the universities switching the responsibility of deciding which cause to support each year.
“This is a new direction of the alumni association, to make the association meaningful to not only the alumni, but to the community and the undergraduate community,” Schaffer said.
This year, the Yale Club of New Haven chose to have the donations go to the Schwartz family. Next year, the event will start at the Ingalls Rink, going toward Quinnipiac, and Quinnipiac will choose the cause.
Harry Rosenholtz, now associate head coach for Quinnipiac’s women’s hockey team, previously served as the associate head coach for women’s hockey at Yale. While at Yale, he recruited Schwartz and coached her during her first two years. Rosenholtz has remained in close touch with Schwartz and her family throughout her ordeal and visited her in Seattle in August.
“I’m extremely proud of Quinnipiac for getting involved in pitching in to help,” Rosenholtz said. “There are certain things that trump rivalry and one of them is helping situations like Mandi’s.”
Schaffer referred to the march as a “fun-a-thon.” The participants had the option of walking, running or biking and even coming back to the start once they got tired.
“It’s not about winning,” Schaffer said. “It’s about participating.”
The first and every 10th finisher were given the option to choose their prize of tickets to any Quinnipiac or Yale hockey game. Because Schwartz wore number 17 on her jersey, the 17th finisher also received tickets of their choice.
“Both athletic departments are here in force to support this important cause, to work in collaboration with the undergraduate communities and to create excitement around two hockey programs which have developed into two of the greatest in the country,” Schaffer said. “When you bring them together, the energy around an event like this is incredible.”
Senior occupational therapy major Christina DeBellis, a member of Quinnipiac’s track team, had already run three miles Saturday morning, but came to the event still planning on running the entire path with her best friend, senior physical therapy major Andrew Neumeister.
“I always like running,” Neumeister said. “We’re in college and don’t have a ton of money, but it’s nice to donate a couple and help out a good cause.”
Junior marketing major Neil Mammele, a member of Quinnipiac’s baseball team, walked with the rest of his team to support Schwartz.
“I really liked the idea,” Mammele said. “It shows that while we may consider each other rivals in particular sports, we can come together when it is needed.”
Allison Cole, a 1999 graduate of Yale and a former university lacrosse player, has worked as Yale’s assistant athletic director for development and outreach for almost three years.
“Mandi is an extraordinary kid fighting a really, really tough battle and seeing pictures from this event, from people at Quinnipiac and Yale coming together to help her, will help her get better every day,” Cole said.
Yale freshman lacrosse players Courtney Rutter and Jen Devito helped out with event registration.
“We want to have the back of the hockey team; we know they would do the same for us,” Devito said.
“We thought it would be mostly Yale; it’s great to see another school come out, and nice that everyone came together for a cause despite their differences,” Rutter said.
Suzanne and Mike Stringer, Yale alumni, were biking the path to support Schwartz and their close friends: one who recently passed away from cancer and one who went through a transplant a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s great that Quinnipiac is so supportive,” Mrs. Stringer said. “It’s nice to have that camaraderie.”
To further support Schwartz, Yale will dedicate their women’s ice hockey game on Friday to her.
Photo credit: Charlotte Greene