Gallagher finalist for Hockey Humanitarian Award

Doug Manners

Like many college students, Quinnipiac senior Gillian Gallagher took a trip for spring break last year. But the objective of her trip wasn’t to relax at the beach on a sun-soaked tropical island. Gallagher’s purpose was to help those less fortunate, which is why she spent her spring break building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

It’s that kind of unselfishness that has led Gallagher, an assistant captain on the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team, to be named one of the five finalists for the 2005 Hockey Humanitarian Award. The recipient of the award will be named on April 8 in Columbus, Ohio during the NCAA Frozen Four.

The Hockey Humanitarian Award is given annually to college hockey’s finest citizen and recognizes men’s and women’s players, Division I or Division II, who give back to their community. The award complements the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, which is awarded annually to the top hockey player in men’s Division I hockey.

“[Gallagher] has made us all, players and coaches, better people for being around her. She is the epitome of what it means to be selfless,” women’s ice hockey head coach Michael Barrett said.

“I don’t think the second wave of the tsunami had hit, and she sent an e-mail to the team saying we need to help these people. It’s just her nature. If there’s a cause, she’s on it.”

A native of Montville, N.J., Gallagher credits her mother for getting her involved in volunteer work at a young age. In elementary school, she did community service activities with the Girl Scouts, and by high school Gallagher had joined several volunteer organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the group she is most proud to be a part of.

“We build houses and renovate old houses that need work,” Gallagher said. “It’s rewarding because you see where your help is going. You get to meet and work side-by-side with the families.”

Gallagher puts much of her volunteering time into the Habitat for Humanity chapters at Quinnipiac and Bridgeport, where she has helped build houses on numerous weekends. She also grows her hair long so she can cut it and donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides wigs for people who have lost their hair due to an illness.

Along with her teammates on the ice hockey team, Gallagher has read to elementary school children, visited senior citizen homes, raked leaves for local residents, donated toys to children at Christmastime and done numerous food drives. But Gallagher always goes one step further.

“When the team sponsors meals for Thanksgiving, she always also does one on her own,” Barrett said. “The team would go grocery shopping for a family, and Gill will take part in that, but she’d also (sponsor) an entire family all by herself.”

Gallagher manages to be involved in all of these activities despite being a student-athlete, which involves balancing class work, a 34-game schedule, road trips as far as Detroit and practices that starat 6 o’clock in the morning. Still, she finds time and constantly encourages her teammates and friends to donate as much time as possible to community service.

“There’s always time to help somebody. Any time you can (donate) is helpful,” Gallagher said. “It’s all about organizing everything that needs to be done and fitting it in.”

Last season, the women’s ice hockey team won the Positive Play Cup, which is awarded to the Quinnipiac athletic team that accumulates the most points through community service activities and attending seminars or work shops. Barrett says Gallagher played an important role in the team winning the Positive Play Challenge.

But for Gallagher, volunteering is not about winning awards or trophies. To her, giving back to the community and helping those in need is the right thing to do. She will graduate from Quinnipiac in May with a degree in criminal justice, a field of work that is all about serving the community.

“The stuff she does isn’t a one time thing that most of us would do once and feel good about,” Barrett said. “It’s her lifestyle.”