Volunteerism has taken on a different look during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing hasn’t changed for Saint Mary’s women’s hockey coach Sarah Murray: She doesn’t know how her captain gets enough sleep.
It’s no surprise that Cardinals senior defenseman Delaney Wolf is a Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist for the second year running.
A Michigan native who grew up in her parents’ hometown of Bismarck, N.D., Wolf doesn’t broadcast all the extracurricular work she does, but her work is also hard to miss.
“She never talks about it,” Murray said of Wolf, known as D.D. in Saint Mary’s dressing room. A teammate started calling Wolf that during her sophomore season, and the nickname stuck.
“She’s very humble, and when I nominated her last year, I knew D.D. helps out with youth hockey, tutors her teammates and always helps out at the humane society, so I knew there were little things here and there that she did,” Murray continued. “Then we started the application for Hockey Humanitarian, and I looked through it, and I basically told her, ‘Do you even sleep? How do you have time to do all these things?’
“She must be sleeping two hours a night or not at all. She just has more hours in the day than the rest of us.”
Wolf’s time on and off the ice with the Cardinals, and carrying a 4.0 GPA as a double-major (biochemistry and Spanish) and double-minor (psychology and physics) student, seem demanding enough. She spent around 30 hours volunteering during her junior year, though, and she hasn’t been far off that mark this season.
“It’s been a little less busy, just because it’s hard to get out and do a lot of different things,” Wolf said. “With social distancing and everything, we want to keep people safe so a lot of events aren’t going on, and there’s less ways to get out in the community.
“That’s been a little slower, but I’ve been looking at any opportunities I can find.”
Some of those opportunities have come through virtual means, including Spanish tutoring for local elementary students who hadn’t received as much foreign-language immersion through distance learning. Additionally, at the start of the Saint Mary’s fall 2020 semester, Wolf began volunteering with 7 Cups, an organization offering online mental health therapy and free counseling.
Wolf’s work as a volunteer listener with 7 Cups checks out for anyone who knows her. Since she was 16 years old, she has been a certified nursing assistant at Lakewood Landing, an assisted living community in Mandan, North Dakota, across the Missouri River from Bismarck. She can still be found there when Saint Mary’s students are away on breaks.
“I always spent a little extra time with my residents whenever I could, just because they couldn’t see their families, and it was getting hard for them,” Wolf said. “They felt like they were being trapped sometimes in their rooms sometimes in quarantine for weeks on end (amid the pandemic), so I tried to give them as much interaction as I could.
“Whenever I’m back for Christmas, Thanksgiving, whatever, I pick up a decent number of shifts. My parents get mad because I’m never home because I’m there.”
Back at the Saint Mary’s campus in Winona, Minnesota, Wolf has made a point in her senior year to give back to the Lasallian Brothers, members of a Roman Catholic religious teaching organization that has been associated with the university since the 1930s.
Members of the group live on campus, and while they normally have an active involvement with Saint Mary’s sports teams, that arrangement has taken on a different look during the pandemic. Wolf took an active role there, coming up with an idea for her team to take socially-distanced, masked-up walks with the Brothers.
“They’ve been struggling to get in contact with students because most of (the Brothers) are older, so they’re at high-risk for COVID, so it’s been difficult to get them involved, but over breaks and stuff, we would invite them out,” Wolf said. “We want to keep them involved on campus, because we know (the pandemic has) been hard on them.”
The Lasallian Brothers had been known to host the Cardinals sports teams for meals and other on-campus activities. Now, Wolf and her teammates are returning the favor.
“(The Brothers) were kind of trapped in their house and weren’t allowed to interact with the students because they were at-risk, but D.D. thought of taking them for walks,” Murray said. “Nobody thought of taking team walks outside, wearing masks, but she just thinks of other people first. Her mind thinks differently.”
Once Wolf’s time at Saint Mary’s is complete, she plans to take a gap year before she begins med school. She hopes the gap year will help her decide where she wants to focus with regards to patient care and research.
Her dream job, though, is with Médecins Sans Frontières, an international health organization best known for its efforts in conflict zones as well as countries affected by endemic diseases.
“Their work is usually overseas, but I really love to travel, so that’s something I’ve been interested in since high school,” Wolf said. “It’s very long-term because I have to get through med school first, become a doctor of whatever type and then figure out what to do with that, but I think it’s a great organization that I’ve always had a lot of interest in.
“Being able to go over and experience different cultures, especially in times of hardship and to be able to help, I think that’s one of the best things that you can do.”
She has already shown willingness to experience life far from home, but no matter where she ends up, she’ll miss Saint Mary’s and the Winona community.
“I’ve definitely learned how to fall in love with a place based on the people here,” Wolf said. “I was never super-attached to Bismarck in particular growing up, so coming to Saint Mary’s was not really a big jump.
“It’s going to be really hard to leave, because I’ve fallen in love with my professors, my best friends are here and all of my favorite people, other than my family, are here. It’s where I’ve learned how to love and be very, very happy.”
At the same time, others have learned plenty from her.
“It’s not like she’s doing all these things and putting in 50 percent,” Murray said. “She’s doing all these things and she’s excellent at everything.
“She’s going to accomplish whatever she wants to do. She’s incredible.”