There’s more to PSU’s student-athletes than excellent grades and athletic prowess. There’s a desire to make a difference in the world.
Plymouth State men’s hockey coach Craig Russell ’09 encourages his team to serve as often as possible. Through the nonprofit organization Team IMPACT, which pairs children with life-threatening or chronic illness with local college athletic teams, Russell and his athletes have befriended one young boy who has made as big an impact in their lives as they have in his.
Ten-year-old Tyler Carson of Franklin, NH, has osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer commonly found in children, especially during periods of rapid growth. Tyler underwent numerous surgeries to remove a tumor that developed on his femur, and has been in and out of a wheelchair ever since. When Russell heard of Tyler’s story, and his interest in “joining” the men’s ice hockey team, he wasted no time in putting the play into action. “The players have gained a lot as individuals and as a team,” since meeting Tyler, notes Russell. “Working with Tyler allows team members to view their own challenges from a new perspective.”
The first time you meet Tyler, you discover that he doesn’t allow his physical challenges to get in the way of doing what he wants to do, and he loves being part of the men’s ice hockey team. From helping the team welcome 15 new members this season to tackling the fully padded goalie and challenging the whole hockey team to a post-practice snowball fight provided by fresh ice shavings, Tyler is truly part of the team, whose members welcome his playfulness and boundless energy. And after a scrimmage, it’s Tyler who, from the heart of the huddle, leads the team in a final cheer and emerges with a grin.
“The guys love having him around and we’re honored to be a part of his battle,” says team captain Dave Walters, a graduate student in international business. “Watching him go through something like this and still come to the rink with a smile on his face helps me put my own life into perspective and realize how lucky I’ve been. He’s truly been an inspiration to not only me, but the whole team.”