THE GABBIE HUGHES MENTAL HEALTH MISSION
It’s a rare feat in track and field, let alone collegiate track, for an athlete to be as well known for his skill on the field as he is for his service to others off it. Despite the weirdness, that’s exactly what the University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey graduate gabbie hughes has achieved
One of only three players in NCAA Division I women’s hockey history to be named a Patty Kazmaier Top-3 Finalist and a Hockey Humanitarian Finalist, Hughes hasn’t mastered the hockey part in a while. As one of the seventh-highest scorers in Bulldog program history, the product of Lino Lakes, Minn., she currently leads the team with 22 points in 17 games (4g, 18a). Only four players on UMD have had more assists than Hughes, who ranks just five assists out of fourth and 12 out of a top three spot. In all of college hockey right now, only one player has amassed more career points than Hughes (190) – not just among UMD’s legends of the game, but among all-time legends of the game.
But as most hockey fans in the state now know, that changed for Hughes on July 12, 2021. A month later, the Hughes family and Sophie Wieland’s family created Sophie’s Squad, a nonprofit dedicated to to improve the mental health of athletes from youth to college level by raising awareness of mental health issues and removing the stigma associated with getting help.
One year and four months later, Sophie’s Squad is doing exactly what the organization set out to do. And Hughes, long known for her hockey prowess, is now equally known for her commitment to mental health awareness. Passionate and as involved as ever, Hughes’ quest to educate the hockey world and beyond, through the vein of Sophie’s Squad, is unwavering.
“Looking back on the organization’s journey, I can’t help but smile,” Hughes said recently. “Seeing the many different events we’ve had and the people we’ve impacted is very moving. I think we’re helping people understand that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to not be okay. In the year that we’ve been an organization , they’ve made a huge impact and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us. I know Soph would be so proud of what we’re doing.”
As a spokesperson who has assumed various roles in the organization, Hughes is as busy as ever. The only way to know how busy she is is to ask those around her, because the Bulldog center isn’t overtly lit by its service light.
Just this Election Day, on a mandatory day off from NCAA practice, Hughes drove to Children’s Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota, to tour a new 22-bed inpatient wing for youth and adolescent mental health patients. . It was there that Hughes wrote and helped present a $50,000 donation to help fund the athletic/gaming aspects of Children’s Minnesota’s new inpatient mental health unit. After the tour, Hughes drove all the way back to Duluth, a common experience over the past year for the unusual lawyer.
Sophie’s Squad has had a year any nonprofit organization would be proud of and as of November 29, 2022, $219,706 has been raised for the organization. While the $50,000 donation to Children’s Minnesota is by far the organization’s largest single donation, the majority of funds raised by Sophie’s Squad events go toward awareness events, providing educational resources and materials, as well as merchandise to student athletes participating in the events.
So far Sophie’s Squad has run over 23 different events. And Hughes, who was part of starting and creating Sophie’s Squad, is as involved in as many events as she can reasonably be, doing everything from serving as a keynote speaker to helping coordinate and run events, as well as running most of the social media. accounts
“Since I have known the Hughes family for eight years, I have come to know that they are the most generous and passionate family I know, and gabbie hughes it’s no different,” said Rick Fiester, Director of Medical Education and Counseling and board member. “Since the beginning of Sophie’s Squad, she has been emphatically supportive and involved. The passion she shares on and off the ice is immeasurable. As our spokesperson at the collegiate level, her influence has had a lasting impact on many members of the hockey community, from youth to adult and beyond. Trying to balance college, hockey, family and the addition of Sophie’s Squad can be daunting at times I’m sure, but Gabbie seems to use this to motivate her to succeed in every way. Her contributions to her community have a feeling of legacy to them, and yet she humbly carries on with her life not asking for recognition, but rather making a difference in today’s world regarding health. mental “.
Hughes came out of the national championship game last March and has taken on many responsibilities within the organization. After jumping in to help out at the Minnesota Hockey Expo Sophie’s Squad’s booth between NCAA Tournament games in mid-March in Minneapolis, Minnesota (and scoring four goals to advance UMD to its second straight NCAA Frozen Four), Hughes started to run. on March 24 and helped with the first Minnesota Wild mental health game for Sophie’s Squad. Hughes spoke at various summer events and was an integral part of the inaugural Sophie’s Squad 5k Run/Walk & Golf event on September 10, 2022. Hughes helped plan, organize, bring participants and volunteers together and even spoke at the event. before the 5k to all participants. These may be things that others don’t notice or see on a daily basis, but for those inside the organization, they are paramount.
“Gabbie’s commitment to mental health awareness extends well beyond the world of hockey,” said Mike Northquest, Sophie’s Squad CFO. “Took time out of an already busy schedule to participate in a tour of MN Children’s Hospital to better understand how healthcare professionals are treating the mental health issues that affect our youth. Time is a valuable asset and Gabbie She’s always willing to give it away.” yours to help others on their path to better mental health.
As both Bulldog hockey programs prepare for a Sophie’s Squad double header this weekend at AMSOIL Arena, you can be sure that Hughes has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help make the event a reality. The UMD team captain will stand in front of the media this week and remind everyone why what she’s doing matters and ultimately why she’s doing it in the first place – to honor Sophie Wieland. She will tell you that even she has struggled with mental health, and she will be a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for those who don’t even know they may need it. She and she will do it with all the passion of hers that has made her one of the best college hockey players both in the history of the program and in the history of college hockey in general.
“Gabbie has been a great ambassador for Sophie’s Squad and a champion for mental health awareness,” said Matt Lee, director of marketing/public relations for Sophie’s Squad. “Her status as one of the elite hockey players in the country and the passion she brings to Sophie’s team have helped us further our mission in Division I and Division III athletics. Thanks to Gabbie speaking out about her own struggles, we think many other athletes have recognized that it’s okay to not be okay. The example she’s setting is helping to remove the stigma associated with seeking help.”
One year later, with more motivation than ever to make his legacy matter, gabbie hughes it’s just beginning. An athlete who achieves a feat far greater than the limits of any arena.
**The Bulldogs will host a Hockey Hits Back Sophie’s Squad Mental Health Awareness Game this Saturday at AMSOIL when UMD takes on the University of St. Thomas at 3:00 pm For more information on Sophie’s Squad, click here. click on here.
To read more about gabbie hughes and how her journey as an advocate came to be, click here.