Among the group of 18 nominees for the 2016 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which includes both male and female competitors at the NCAA level, it was heartwarming to see Morgan Richardson gain such prestigious recognition. As the criteria for the award recognizes "college hockey's finest citizen", there is no question that Richardson is highly worthy.
Currently in her senior season with the Cornell Big Red in Ithaca, New York, Ricahrdson’s impact on the team extended far beyond the rink. Through Do It for Daron (DIFD), many of her teammates were so touched by the story behind the cause, and the courage that Richardson showed, that upon graduation, they would organize DIFD nights with their new club teams.
It is the type of courage that still captures the hearts and minds of residents in her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario. As her father, Luke Richardson, a former first round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs is also the head coach of the AHL’s Binghamton Senators, there is no question that this quaint community in upstate New York is equally moved by the empowering influence of DIFD.
Sadly, the autumn of 2010 brought an abrupt end to the promising life of Daron Richardson, who was Morgan’s younger sister. Like Morgan, Daron also had a love of the game, both dreaming of emulating their father’s hockey glories as they got older. Daron’s passing would prove to be a heartbreaking loss that not just devastated Ottawa’s women’s hockey community, but the entire city itself.
The result was a collective effort throughout the community to preserve Daron’s memory with the formation of DIFD. Dedicated to promote youth mental health awareness, the cause has included the brave leadership of mom Stephanie Richardson, who continues to inspire as a pillar of strength.
Although upstate New York is currently the Richardson’s home due to hockey commitments, the hockey communities in Cornell and Binghamton have embraced the cause, holding DIFD nights on an annual basis. The support of the hockey community has proven crucial, showing great compassion.
Its message is so powerful that DIFD nights are not just exclusive to Ottawa and New York state. This season, New Jersey-based Princeton University was one of three clubs outside of this region to host a DIFD night. Of note, the NWHL’s Boston Pride, which features Cornell alums Lauren Slebodnick and Alyssa Gagliardi helped organize a DIFD event. In addition, the Calgary Inferno became the first CWHL team to host a DIFD event. CWHL All-Star Jessica Campbell and Hayleigh Cudmore both played with Richardson as Cornell. Their support for DIFD not only resulted in an event, but in special edition purple jerseys with the DIFD logo on the shoulder.
With regards to the DIFD nights proudly hosted by Cornell, Richardson has shown tremendous leadership, helping to organize the DIFD game since her freshman season. Since its launching in 2010, DIFD has raised over $4 million dollars, while providing young people and others that have struggled with mental health issues to feel courage and strength. While the winner shall be named on Friday, April 8 in Tampa, Florida, the recognition of Richardson is not only a significant achievement, but represents a tremendous victory for all who support mental health research.