Sometimes a hockey game is more than just a hockey game.
On February 11, the Boys Varsity Hockey team scored two goals in a tie game against Kimball Union Academy. But the most impressive stat to come out of that game didn’t happen on the ice. It was the nearly $6,000 the team raised, with help from the entire Holderness community, for the Sarah Duval Memorial Fund.
The Sarah Duval Memorial Fund is named in honor of Sarah Duval, the sister of varsity hockey player Jacob Duval ’25. During a team-building exercise earlier this year, Jacob, who is new to Holderness, shared that his sister had passed away in February of 2021 due to complications from leukemia. Touched by how lovingly Jacob spoke about his sister and the time they played hockey together, Jacob’s teammates resolved to dedicate their upcoming game against KUA to Sarah. They would use the game as an opportunity to raise money for the Sarah Duval Memorial Fund, which awards scholarships to high school seniors who aspire to work in the health and human services fields. The fund also awards scholarships to families whose children play hockey and soccer, but need financial help to do so.
The team’s captains, with the help of the school’s Student Athlete Leadership Team, organized an entirely student-led effort to prepare for the game and fundraiser. On the day of the game, students ran a bake sale, organized a 50/50 raffle, and sold t-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Sarah Strong’. It was a true community effort, with students from numerous sports teams pitching in. “Initially when I was talking about it with the other captains we were planning on it just being a hockey team fundraiser - a small thing,” says Hockey Co-Captain Evan Plunkett ‘24. “It started out as a hockey thing and it just expanded out into everybody wanting to get involved, which was pretty cool.”
The game itself was packed with students, teachers, and parents who came out to show their support. They were joined by Jacob and Sarah’s family, who started the fund to honor Sarah’s love of sports and learning. In a thank-you letter to the school after the game, the Duval family acknowledged the scope and impact of the school’s fundraiser. “When we arrived at the rink on Saturday, the amount of Sarah Strong t-shirts, the table full of amazing donated items, and the students that were volunteering to help out was amazing…truly humbling!” the family wrote. “Almost $6,000 was raised through the t-shirt sales, the 50/50 raffle, the raffle items, food purchases, and direct donations to the Sarah Duval Memorial Fund.”
For Hockey Head Coach Alan Thompson, watching the student-led fundraiser take shape and succeed was more satisfying than any victory on the ice.
“This is what it’s all about. Teaching the game of hockey is the easy part of the job,” Thompson says.
“Teaching the character and the tools that it’s going to take to get through life and try to work through the hard times – that’s something we try to educate these guys on. In my opinion it’s more important than how we do in terms of our team’s success on the ice.”
For Captain Evan Plunkett and his teammates, the game against KUA was a potent reminder of what really matters.
“I think it brought a different vibe to the locker room and the team,” Plunkett says. “We’re so focused on results all the time, the whole year, and we don’t ever really take a step back to realize how lucky we are to even be able to play the game that we love.”