For Harvard’s Kyle Criscuolo, giving back is ‘100 percent worth it’

By Brian Lester

The forward, one of five finalists for the 2016 Hockey Humanitarian Award, teaches hockey to children, works with the Special Olympics and does work at a local homeless shelter

Kyle Criscuolo learned the importance of giving back at a young age and he has never forgotten the importance of that lesson.

Now, as a senior at Harvard, the talented forward and co-captain of the Crimson is one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

My parents always stressed the value in doing good for others, and it’s always been important to me. I wanted to make sure I got involved in the community when I got to Harvard. It’s a great honor to be recognized as a finalist. It’s something I am very proud of.

Kyle Criscuolo – Harvard

Harvard coach Ted Donato said the fact that Criscuolo is among the finalists is hardly a surprise considering how much he has done to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Kyle represents all the best attributes that we want in a Harvard hockey player,” Donato said. “While being an all-star on the ice, Kyle has spearheaded many of our charitable causes in the Boston community. He is an incredible leader who motivates and leads by example, all with great humility.”

Criscuolo, a native of New Jersey, is one of Harvard’s top scoring threats. But he has been just as much of a success off the ice, giving his time to a variety of causes, including teaching hockey to children, working with the Special Olympics and doing work at a local homeless shelter.

“The time commitment is big, but at the end of the day, it’s 100 percent worth it being able to give back to others,” Criscuolo said. “It’s very rewarding to know you are helping others.”

The Making Strides Count program is one way Criscuolo and his Harvard teammates have been able to help others. Criscuolo co-founded the program with Harvard women’s hockey co-captain Michelle Picard last fall, and the purpose is to give children at the Boys & Girls Club in Somerville, Mass., a chance to learn hockey while also inspiring them to strive to achieve their dreams.

“Michelle and I both have a great passion for hockey. The game has given us so much and has taught us a lot of life lessons,” Criscuolo said. “We wanted those kids to have a chance to experience it. It’s so much fun to work with them, and the relationships we have formed with those kids are special.”

His involvement with the Special Olympics also carries special meaning.

“It was great. We played floor hockey with them and got to know them a little bit,” Criscuolo said. “It was a very uplifting experience. Those athletes are so positive and you can feel the love they give you.”

Criscuolo also has had opportunities to spend time at a homeless shelter that was founded and operated by Harvard students.

“As a team, we took the initiative to donate items and volunteered to help cook meals,” Criscuolo said. “We had a chance to interact with the people there. They are all under 26 and from the Cambridge area.”

The experience was an eye-opening one.

“You really see how fortunate you are being able to go to a great school and play a sport you love,” Criscuolo said. “It reminds you not to take a day for granted and inspires you to be the best person you can be each day.”

Criscuolo no doubt strives to be the best he can be each day, whether it’s on the ice, in the classroom or in the community. That includes getting a team together for the Boston Wiffle Ball Challenge that benefits the Travis Roy Foundation.

The tournament has raised more than $400,000 in six years. Proceeds benefit the foundation’s efforts to enhance the lives of individuals with spinal cord injuries, helps fund research and helps the Franciscan Hospital for Children, which provides care and treatment to children dealing with physical, medical and behavioral challenges.

“We have a lot of fun playing in that tournament and it’s great knowing you are doing it for a good cause,” Criscuolo said.

Criscuolo, the 2015 ECAC Student-Athlete of the Year and a Senior CLASS award candidate, takes pride in all that he has done to help others and is thankful he can use his platform as a student-athlete to make a difference.

“I’ve been able to use the stage I’ve been given in a positive way,” Criscuolo said. “It’s great to be able to make a plan to do something and then go out and execute that plan. At the end of it, you see how happy you have made others by what you have done.”

Criscuolo is also thrilled with the way his career at Harvard has played out over the last four years. Through 119 career games, he had tallied 54 goals and 59 assists, and he’ll go down as one of the best to play for the Crimson.

“To be able to play at Harvard is very special,” Criscuolo said. “I’ve had an awesome experience and have had a chance to play with great teammates. I’ve also learned to be a better person because of everything else I’ve been able to do besides being a hockey player. I’m blessed.”

Even if he doesn’t win the Hockey Humanitarian Award, Criscuolo said he won’t be disappointed. He gives credit to the other finalists for what they have done to make a difference in the lives of others.

“They are all tremendous people,” Criscuolo said. “This award highlights how many student-athletes are doing good things for others. A lot of people don’t realize the other things we do besides play hockey. To be a part of that group is a big deal and I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given to help others.”