For Camil Blanchet, the end to his hockey career at Bowdoin has been bittersweet with the Polar Bears unable to qualify for the NESCAC tournament.
As a senior, that ending has a dual impact as he understands that the next time he laces his skates up it will be in a beer league or alumni function next season.
The finality is hard when the end comes for a game you love to play, but Camil’s ending is only the regular season with the potential for a far bigger honor and opportunity on the horizon just a month or so away. But if you didn’t ask or know, you would never believe this unassuming and very articulate college senior had just been named a finalist for the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award – and that, in essence is the story of the man who has come to represent an acute focus on helping the common good on campus and in the Brunswick area without fanfare or seeking recognition.
He does it because it is important.
“Camil is really a once-in-a-generation guy,” noted Bowdoin head coach Jamie Dumont. “He is special and unique in his commitment to everything he pays attention to but especially helping others. He is a rare individual who would come into my office, or Coach (Terry) Meagher’s before me, and ask about so many different charitable endeavors that he had thought about and wanted to spend time on. In fact, it was less about ask and more about telling us what he was going to do.”
Following a trip to Rwanda after his sophomore year, much about Blanchet’s focus on helping others became clear from his experience in the African nation over the summer.
“I went there and was exposed to so much in Rwanda,” said Blanchet. “I think if I have to trace back the roots, it was that eye-opening experience of seeing how people live outside our country in difficult situations. It was an experience that stuck with me and made me want to do more to help people and get involved with programs and activities that were already part of things our hockey program was doing.
“It became a priority for me.”
One of the key priorities was focused around Lucien Hodell, a local Brunswick resident diagnosed with cerebral palsy who was part of the team through the TEAM Impact program. Lucien has been a regular fixture around the team for several years attending team dinners, coming to practices and home games and having his own locker in the team room.
Blanchet wanted to do something that recognized Lucien while also supporting the greater cause. He, along with fellow senior Spencer Autunez, created a charity game this season to raise awareness and funds for the United Cerebral Palsy organization in Maine that assists over 1,500 individuals in Maine.
A charity game was created with the players buying their third jerseys and funding part of a larger donation with part of the purchase monies. Special t-shirts with Lucien’s name and number (28) were sold, a 50/50 raffle was created, a signed Polar Bears jersey was raffled off as were the individual shirts of the players after the game.
All in all, the event raised over $2,500 and honored their “teammate” Lucien in a special way during the game played against Connecticut College to end the first semester.
On a bigger stage, Blanchet has been a leader on campus through the McKeen Common Good Center as their representative to the Bowdoin student government. In this role, he has also sought to align many of the charitable endeavors undertaken by individual athletic teams on campus by driving the “Breaking the Bubble” initiative at Bowdoin. This unique leadership training program focused 25 student-athletes on community service leadership training to develop the next group of student leaders to support future activities on campus and in the community.
“Camil has also organized events along with the football program and helped recruit volunteers to support road race events on behalf of a veterans group and the local Humane Society,” said Dumont. “He finds time to do these things where many kids today are more focused on perks and entitlement – Camil is the embodiment of responsibility and obligation. And he does it without seeking recognition for himself.”
A Neuroscience major, Blanchet hopes to follow in the footsteps of his accomplished parents. Jacques Blanchet, Camil’s father, is an emergency room physician while his mother, Holley is a pediatric endocrinologist. He has aspirations of helping people in the future as a physician and while waiting for medical school, working at a hospital to support local initiatives wherever he lands.
“I know I will make one of my parents happy or disappoint the other depending on which way I go with the medical path,” joked Blanchet. “They have always set a good example for giving back and how to prioritize the important things in life. I know that the rigors of being a student here at Bowdoin and playing hockey don’t leave a lot of time for other pursuits, but I think you prioritize your time to get the important things done and finding ways to helping others by contributing to charitable endeavors and community service is one of the things that has and will always have a priority in my life.”