UMass Boston’s Men In Blades aiming for legacy to be ‘that it is important to put the needs of others above you and that service to others is important for each and every one of us’

By Tim Costello

Amazingly, two sometimes isn’t enough as it applies to movie franchises.

The “Men In Black” series has completed three successful and linked storylines much like the intrepid Men In Blades (MIB) have done with their third consecutive nomination and earning finalist status for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

While the recognition is greatly appreciated and humbling, Jacob Adkins and Andrew Walker from UMass Boston are all about the MIB legacy and ensuring that hockey and service will live well beyond their time on campus.

“We have learned a lot of things over the past few years,” said Adkins. “We have seen that it is important to put the needs of others above you and that service to others is important for each and every one of us. We have had a unique platform here at school and with the hockey program and couldn’t be happier with how this has all evolved and grown despite a pandemic.”

What started three years ago with a 900-mile rollerblading trip in support of the American Cancer Society, has now blossomed into additional fundraising events beyond the hockey community that have generated more than $50,000 for ACS and other local charities.

“We have seen first-hand that kindness goes a long way,” noted Walker. “Our events now enable participation at a number of levels. We know everyone can’t rollerblade, so we staged a Walkathon. We put together our second Hockey Fights Cancer game this season and added a Chuck-A-Puck component. We also continued our toy donation efforts for children fighting cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital. While there were challenges along the way, it has been great to see the support not only here on campus but across a broader audience.”

The MIB continued to grow their levels of local sponsorship this past year and continued to strive for the important completion of their selected charitable endeavors despite some headwinds. The Walkathon, which was originally scheduled for the prior year but postponed due to COVID protocols saw its permitting denied over ten times before the persistent MIB finally gained clearance with just a week remaining to the scheduled date. They responded quickly leveraging the growing sponsor list and donated giveaways to ensure a successful Race-to-a-Cure with the walk/run event that created a great team environment.

“We had great participation from the athletic teams here at the school,” Adkins said. “Right before the race, I found out my grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the process of completing her assessment and beginning her treatments. We think everyone has been touched by cancer somewhere in the people they know, be it family or friends so we feel there is an obvious connection to support our efforts focused on raising money for research and patient and family support.”

The now-annual Hockey Fights Cancer game featured the iconic purple jerseys for the Beacon team and while the event itself was not a huge money generator, the donations of toy was double or triple the previous level to support kids receiving treatment at MGH. With addition of the Chuck-A-Puck, a lot more people were able to participate and support the overall program of the MIB and their support of the ACS.

“It was funny that during the game I went out to support the activity between periods for the Chuck-A-Puck,” stated Walker. “I came out as it started and saw just four pucks on the ice and my heart sank. Apparently, those were the early throwers trying to gain advantage because suddenly it literally just started raining pucks on the ice. It was crazy but it made us feel so good about the participation of the crowd and the response to the program around the game. It was very inspiring.”

While Andrew and Jacob have continued to build on the successes of their charitable endeavors, it has not eluded them that their time on campus and playing hockey is coming to an end. Even with graduation on the near-term horizon and ongoing plans for the next steps with dental school (Andrew) and medical school (Jacob), the MIB are aware of their legacy and have a continuous drive to ensure that their activities and support for the Cancer community extends well beyond their time at Massachusetts-Boston.

“You always hear about ‘helicopter parents’ as it relates to college students,” said Adkins. “Andy and I kinda laugh that we want to be that for MIB going forward past our graduation and wherever our next educational chapter takes us. We have been working well with a great group of underclassmen that want to assume the MIB activities going forward, and we cannot be prouder that the continued support and awareness that has been growing over the past three years will extend beyond us and what was started on that rollerblading trip three years ago. We have been easing the younger players into the activities and are thrilled to see their excitement about the connection between the hockey community and community service.”

For now, the MIB are focused on maybe one more event before graduation this spring. They hope they will be able to continue to generate funds in support of the ACS locally and are excited by the knowledge that the ACS has assigned them a permanent representative each year to support their charitable endeavors, past, present, and future.

“This absolutely does not end with us and our time here as Beacons,” said Walker. “We will leverage alumni going forward and love the concept of building out a MIB Board that can provide counsel and support for the future athletes that reach beyond the school and their sport to support others in need in the local community. We would love to see other MIB chapters spring up on other campuses but remain focused now on making sure the next group of players here can carry on. This will be part of who we are wherever we go in our academic and professional lives. It is important and a priority to always see and act on the needs of others – it is such a great feeling to know you are helping.”

Walker and Adkins have closed out their movie run for the MIB but like the extended franchise, they are excited to see and know that their efforts will be continued beyond their graduation. Their legacy at UMass Boston is strong.

Adkins’ grandmother is currently in treatment and doing well.