Student-Athlete Spotlight: 'Playing for a Cause'
Throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, the Northeast-10 and
its member institutions will be featuring student-athletes across
the conference in the brand new ‘Student-Athlete
Spotlight’ section on the Northeast-10 website. Our ninth
installment, submitted by Marla Glasser, Assistant Director of
Sports Information at Saint Anselm College, features men's ice
hockey player Tucker Mullin.
By Marla Glasser, Saint Anselm
Saint Anselm men’s hockey player Tucker Mullin is no ordinary student-athlete. When he goes out on the ice every day, he is not just playing to win, he is playing for a cause. For the past three years, Mullin has been involved as both a participant and a team member in “Spin to Win: The Fight Against ALS,” a local charity event in his hometown of Andover, Mass.
Additionally, after a life-altering injury to his close friend and former teammate, Tommy Smith, the two athletes have been working to start a non-profit organization to help benefit the Miami Project Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Fla.
Mullin first got involved with the “Spin to Win” event three years ago as a participant. The Spin-A-Thon is an annual 24-hour event that benefits the Muccio Family Fund, in cooperation with the ALS Association, which supports both research and patients’ needs. Since the inaugural event in 2007, the Spin-A-Thon has raised upwards of $50,000.
“I first found out about the Spin-A-Thon through a family friend whose father suffered from ALS. At first I just participated in the event, but I soon became a team member, helping to find sponsors and recruiting new participants.”
Mullin has served as the Co-Director of Corporate Sponsorship for the past two years, where he is responsible for raising money through local businesses. With their help, he has raised over $10,000 for the Muccio Family Fund. In addition to monetary donations, he also recruits vendors to supply food, water, and other necessities to the event.
“Through this process, I have established many positive relationships with business owners and each year they look forward to being a part of this event.”
Mullin also takes it upon himself to help find teams to participate in the event, a part of his job that he finds even more fulfilling.
“Every year I get to pull in new people and new teams. Each year the event gets bigger and bigger. It’s been fun to see how it grows. The money we raise is great, but the event is really about showing support to the family. It really sends a message and spreads awareness in the community.”
In 2008, Mullin’s Boston Junior Bulldogs team volunteered to ride bikes at 5 and 6 a.m. They were one of the few teams that were willing to ride during the early, more difficult hours. This year, the Saint Anselm men’s and women’s ice hockey teams each rode for an hour, bringing light to the dark hours of night with their positive attitudes.
“The best part of the event is seeing how teams work together to achieve goals that are bigger than their respective sports and themselves. Giving back should be a thing done more often.”
Every year, Mullin’s favorite part of the event is the end.
“The last hour is overwhelming with emotion. Everyone comes together at the finish, and that’s what you look forward to. We have a countdown clock, and when you see it hit zero, it really makes you feel like what you’ve done has helped someone, and that’s what it’s all about. None of it is for yourself, but for other people, and when the clock strikes zero, you know you’ve made a difference.”
In August of 2008, one of Mullin’s former teammates, Tommy Smith, suffered a life-changing injury, as he crashed head-on into the boards during a junior hockey game. The tragic accident left him unlikely to ever walk again, let alone play hockey. However, after spending most of a year at the Miami Project Rehabilitation Center, he managed to overcome his injury.
In August of 2009, one year after the accident, the unthinkable happened; Smith was cleared to play ice hockey again. Unfortunately, just a few months later, Smith suffered a second neck injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Not long after Smith’s first injury, Mullin began actively helping Smith with his own charitable goals. “Given my background with the ALS event, I have been able to advise Tommy on what kind of events will be successful.” With Mullin’s help, Smith has already hosted two sold-out Comedy Fundraisers in his hometown of Saugus, Mass., in efforts to raise money for the Miami Project. To help out his teammate, Mullin found sponsors to donate $4,000 worth of t-shirts to be sold at November’s event, and he was recognized for his efforts as a person of importance.
The two hockey players are currently in the process of co-founding a non-profit organization, The Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation, to continue their charitable aspirations. Even though the two men do not play together anymore, they will always be teammates.
“After his first injury, we became very close. I was the captain of the team that he should have been on, so we always kept him close as a part of the team. Just knowing that he was still included, it gave him something else to focus on, and helped inspire his miraculous recovery. I still talk to him every day. It’s been great to see how far he has come.”
“After his second injury, the attitude that he has, you’re really drawn to it. Before, his goal was to get back out on the ice, now he just hopes to be able to walk again. It’s a whole new mindset, but it’s amazing how he’s tackling such a big life issue head on. “
As a tribute to Smith, he and 100 of his closest friends were given the opportunity to skate on the rink at Fenway Park before the Winter Classic.
“He doesn’t want people to feel bad for him; he wants them celebrate that he’s still here. He taught me never to take anything for granted.”
Earlier this season, Mullin arranged for Smith to come talk to the Saint Anselm hockey team.
“It was very meaningful to everyone, getting to see someone who was in our position. He was supposed to play college hockey like we are, and to see his positive attitude and his motivation to get better, it really inspired everyone.”
In addition to his outstanding extracurriculars, Mullin is a force to be reckoned with on the ice. As of January 6, 2009, he is third on the team and first among rookies in scoring, with four goals and three assists. He is currently third in the Northeast-10, sixth in the ECAC East, and 22nd in the nation in freshman scoring.
According to head coach Ed Seney, his spirit shines both on and off the ice.
“When we were recruiting Mullin, we could see his ability as a player, but we knew there was more to it than that. Every coach gave him a glowing recommendation as far as his character. When he interviewed [with Saint Anselm], he was concerned about being able to continue what he was working on. He doesn’t do it for recognition, but because he feels like he can make a difference. We are lucky to have him.”
Since graduating from high school, Mullin has adopted the motto, “I am going to do something good out of something bad”. When asked to give his advice to others who want to get involved in their communities, Mullin said, “If you feel strongly about something, don’t hesitate, never hold back If you have something to give, give it, and we all have something to give. You don’t just have to raise money either. There are other ways to get involved; showing your support is often what matters the most”.
As a member of the Saint Anselm hockey team, Mullin has been able to send a message out on the ice. “I’m here for something bigger than just a sport. My hockey career will end at some point, and I’ll need something to fill that gap. I’ve been able to use hockey as a vehicle to push my cause; I have something to play for. First and foremost, you play for your team, but beyond that, having something to spread awareness about, that’s a big deal.”
Especially after seeing the career-ending injury to his close friend, Mullin knows that it is important to get involved in something bigger. “Any hockey player, or really any athlete, should be able to relate to that. We are going to do a lot of good for a lot of people.”