Hockey Humanitarian Award: J. Tucker Mullin
Saint Anselm Senior Forward an Advocate for Curing Paralysis
by A.J. Curry/CHN Reporter
PITTSBURGH Whether they were opponents in high school, or teammates at the Junior A level, J. Tucker Mullin and Thomas E. Smith were, simply, two close friends. When Smith suffered a devastating spinal cord injury in October 2009 – tragically, just months after recovering from a separate, similar injury – the damage left Smith paralyzed.
Mullin, determined to help, co-founded – alongside Smith – the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis foundation, a 501c(3) non-profit organization, which aims to benefit affected by and living with paralysis. Mullin did so as a freshman at Saint Anselm College. Now a senior forward for the Hawks, Mullin was named the winner of the 18th Hockey Humanitarian Award on Friday – given annually to not necessarily “Hall of Fame athletes, but rather Hall of Fame human beings” according to the Award’s website.
"It was hard not to act on that," said Mullin of his friend Smith's injury. "To overcome not one but two separate paralyzing injuries was amazing — it sort of speaks for itself. So we were able to play off each other, and our relationship as grown and will continue growing."
The other finalists for the Award were senior forward Brett Beebe (Western Michigan), senior forward Alyssa Zupon (Yale), senior defenseman Kaare Odegard (Alaska), and junior defenseman Jeffrey Reppucci (Holy Cross) – all of whom proved to be among the game’s most honorable, selfless citizens this year.
The Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis foundation works each year on fundraising endeavors to help people like Smith whose goal is to regain their full physical function. Less than three years since establishing as a non-profit organization, the foundation has raised over $50,000.
Said Mullin, "The past three years have been three years of growth for us, and we're positioned for growth now. That's really what it's about. I was the one accepting the award, but it's the causes that deserve the attention."
Beyond his work and advocacy for patients suffering from paralysis, Mullin’s charitable work has grown as he has progressed through his college career. At Saint Anselm, Mullin also serves as an On-Campus Ambassador for Team IMPACT, another non-profit that aims to improve the quality of life for children battling life-threatening illness.
Through Team IMPACT, last season, Mullin and his teammates adopted nine-year old Benjamin Roy, who at age four was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a form of cancer of white blood cells.
"Great organization," said Mullin of Team IMPACT. "They're growing so fast across the country. That relationship is incredibly special, and that's just on a lot of different front. He really does bring infectious joy every day to the rink, and we're lucky to have him. He's an awesome kid, and he's been through a lot. So we have a new perspective."
Mullin won the Humanitarian Award after being named as a finalist in each of the past two seasons. As a player, Mullin has scored 102 career points – reaching the century-mark this past February, a noteworthy individual achievement for the Andover, Mass., native.
Without question, though, it’s been his off-ice accomplishments that have been much more meaningful for Mullin – and his community.
"I didn't go out looking for any of this to happen," said Mullin. "It came about. And that's when special things happen, when you least expect them."