Two former Saint Michael’s College hockey players were recognized for their work in bringing awareness to mental health before Friday night’s game against Southern New Hampshire University.
2017 graduates Danny Divis and Justin McKenzie were honored in a pregame ceremony for the success of their organization Hope Happens Here, which was started after one of McKenzie’s high school friends committed suicide.
“We initially thought about doing a hockey awareness game,” McKenzie said. “It ended up turning into a student club, which then turned into a full-fledged organization.”
The organization seeks to open up a dialogue about mental heath among student-athletes.
“You think you’re above mental health because you act tough on the ice or on the fields, you kind of internalize that mentally,” Divis said. “We try to destigmatize that area of it.”
Originally, Hope Happens Here was a Saint Michael’s based group, but now 10 colleges across the region have local chapters of the organization.
Divis and McKenzie received the 2017 Hockey Humanitarian Award for their efforts, and have shared the organization’s message on ESPN and NESN. Their former coach Damian DiGiulian said he’s proud of their accomplishments.
“Two of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” Digiulian said. “What they’ve done has just been amazing, and it’s really special tonight for us to be able to honor them as well.”
During the pregame ceremony, a banner recognizing Divis and McKenzie’s accomplishments was raised at Cairns Ice Arena.
Dr. David Landers, A Saint Michael’s College psychology professor, said their work has made a real impact on the student-athlete community.
“The key thing is that they’re students talking to students,” Landers said. “People expect people like me to say things about this because I’ve done it my whole life, but they don’t expect young men to stand up and say it’s okay to not be okay.”
Even with Divis and McKenzie graduated, Hope Happens Here still lives on within the team – senior forward Pat Doherty is on the organization’s leader board.