Teaming Up for Service

March, 2014

Jeremy Gasowski '01 photo.

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.”

Prior to becoming head coach of the women’s lacrosse teamKristin Tracy worked in the Plymouth public school system, where she learned firsthand the difference mentoring can make in young children’s lives. When she came to PSU, she realized her team of high-achieving student-athletes would make excellent role models for local schoolchildren, and created a campus organization, Positive Athletes Working with Students (PAWS), to connect students with service opportunities.Each week, members of the la-crosse team visit with elementary school students for mentoring, tutoring, and simply hanging out. Carly Floyd ’15 has been involved with PAWS for the past three years.  “It’s a great experience. The kids really look up to the student-athletes,” she says.One particular elementary-aged boy, however, was painfully shy, especially around Floyd and her teammates. Floyd says that although it was difficult to even get him to tell her his name at first, she was eventually able to build a rapport with the little boy, who afterward walked her around the athletic fields and playgrounds at his school, introducing her as his friend.The seemingly simple act of shooting hoops on the playground, tutoring or mentoring, or simply giving these students someone to talk to, provides them with the motivation and encouragement that they need. “Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our sport it really helps us to play for something bigger than ourselves,” says Floyd.Molly Gleason ’15 agrees. “I strongly believe that service has made us a better team. It has not only been a bonding experience for us, but it also reminds us that as a group we have a huge impact on others’ lives.”While dedicating their time is a great way to offer support, Tracy’s team has also participated in numerous fund-raising efforts, and recently raised more than $6,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, a veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs and services for wounded veterans of the military actions following 9/11.  ■  Daniel Kaar ’14.Daniel Kaar is a communication and media studies major with an option in film and media who hopes to pursue a career in public relations.  Jeremy Gasowski ’01 photo.Watch Tyler as he hits the ice with the PSU men’s hockey team! 

Leave a Reply