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Sammy Davis swims for charity

From jersey sales to polar plunges, NWHL players have a theme of showing up for charity efforts.

Sammy Davis at a recent Boston Pride practice.
Michelle Jay

Since the founding of the NWHL, players have stepped forward to donate, fundraise, or bring awareness to causes they are passionate about that, as most would say, are bigger than hockey.

Whether it be Madison Packer matching donations to the Kyle Pavone Foundation, Shannon Doyle donating money for all her blocked shots during a season for books and learning materials for students, or Mallory Souliotis donating her jersey sales to Epilepsy research and cure foundations, NWHL players who are still in their own fight for equality in their sport, always find a way to give back.

Most recently, this attribute can be seen in 2020 No. 1 draft pick and Boston Pride rookie, Sammy Davis who is raising money for the Travis Roy Foundation. Davis announced via Instagram on Dec. 1, that she would donate all of her jersey and shirsey sale profits to the foundation this season and encouraged fans to purchase them or donate to the cause directly. She initially had a goal of $2,400 in 24 days, in honor of Roy’s number. But when the goal was hit within five days and she learned just how powerful the NWHL community can be.

“I picked that number because I thought it was going to be hard to get that in 24 days,” Davis said. “We hit that number day five, and I was like ‘whoa...okay, we need a bigger number.’ I think my coach suggested 5K.” Since then, Davis has hit that goal as well, and is now aiming for $8,000.

Along with her fundraising, Davis has also vowed to take a daily polar plunge into the ocean every day for the first 24 days of December. She has kept to her promise by posting daily videos to her social media accounts as proof.

“One of my friends has been doing it for, like, 90 days now and she’s just doing it for fun after a bet. I went with her like last week and was like ‘girl, why haven’t you been raising money?’ and she said ‘I don’t know, I’ve just been doing it for myself, and now I really like it’ and honestly you kind of are on a high after you do it,” Davis explained how this developed. “So I told her about my jersey, shirsey sales and said ‘I’ll jump in with you starting December 1 for 24 days if we raise money. Let’s raise money for Travis.’”

What started out as just the two of them has turned into a community affair, as Davis’ teammates, friends, and family have all joined her on the beach at various times. Her Pride teammates Mallory Soulitis, Taylor Turnquist, and Meghara McManus as well as general manager Karilyn Pilch have all been out there with her too

“It was pretty cold, I will admit,” Souliotis said. “I took a lot of ice baths in college so I knew it wasn’t going to be too awful but I know Taylor Turnquist is not the biggest fan of cold water. And [general manager] Karilyn Pilch was there and she was like ‘I don’t think there’s any way I could do this, I hate the cold.’ So I can not wait to hopefully see her go in and she is not going to enjoy any second of that.”

Souliotis was able to help Davis logistically too, as for the second year the defender will be donating jersey and shirsey sales to Epilepsy Foundation New England and Slap Out Epilepsy. “Sammy came to me like ‘hey you donated your jersey sales last year, how did that work?’ so I helped her out with that just letting her know when to expect the money from jersey sales and stuff so she still has that coming in at the end of the year, so that’ll be awesome for her to see,” she said.

Soon, more of her Boston Pride team will join her as coach Paul Mara said if she reached her $2,400 goal the Pride staff will join her in the water.

“The idea just kind of snowballed and now it’s getting way bigger than me and it’s really really cool,” Davis said. “I have some of my old teammates participating and it’s just so amazing to see the hockey community come together and support you, I always knew it existed but having them back you individually is so amazing. Having that BU community, having so many old teammates reach out to me and say ‘what can I do?’ Even Tabor and club hockey teammates. I just feel so loved.”

Once her original goal was hit, Chris Wagner of the Boston Bruins jumped in to say he would join Davis for a polar plunge one day in December if they could reach the $5,000 goal. Now that that has happened, he will have to put his swim trunks where his mouth is sometime in the next 10 days.

“I think it would be cool to get more of the Bruins players. It would be cool to get all the local boys that grew up in the South Shore and went to BU or BC like Charlie Coyle. Maybe they’ll jump on but I think it would be cool to get both the Boston teams involved,” Davis said. “It’s cold out there but it’s only 10 seconds so you can’t tell me you haven’t been through worse, and it’s for a good cause.”

“I think that athletes nowadays are realizing how much power they have over society and they’re using that platform for social change which I think is unbelievable,” Davis said. “They’re getting involved in that and they have a voice. It’s not just about your sport and it’s so great because it shows a person as who they truly are and I love that. I think we need to continue down this positive path because people listen and they want to hear what you have to say so it’s great and I’m happy to be that voice and I’m happy to talk to people about anything and about what I’m doing.”

When it comes to using her platform for good and raising money for a cause, Davis always knew what she wanted to do. “I instantly wanted to do Travis Roy. I went to Tabor, I went to BU, one of my teammates interned with him and I’ve always tried to volunteer with him or fundraise money for him since I was in college,” she said.

“He also gave my commencement speech at Tabor in 2015, and it was just the most beautiful speech and he told us to enjoy the moment that you’re in and go for what you want in life and never settle and just take everything all in and just be grateful for where you are and...this year, right now, I just feel like I needed that reminder and I’m really trying to enjoy everything that’s going on right now even through this craziness and I just wanted to give back.”

Travis Roy, a former Boston University hockey player, passed away earlier in the year after surgery complications from the spinal cord injury he sustained 11 seconds into his first college hockey shift. He left behind a legacy of immense greatness and giving back. He started the Travis Roy Foundation while still in college in the mid-90s and has since been able to give millions of dollars to spinal cord injury research, finding a cure, and adaptive equipment for anyone living with those injuries.

“I was just thinking about him a lot this past month and thinking about how he’s done so much for people so I thought ‘What can I do? How can I make an impact?’ Even if it’s so small and just bring awareness to people that have spinal cord injuries,” Davis said.

While NWHL players are professional athletes at the top of their game, because of the nature of the game and how early the league still is in its development, a lot of these women don’t make a livable wage playing hockey and have day jobs to pay the bills. It can be hard to put them on the same pedestal as you would internationally recognized athletes who make millions of dollars a year. Despite the fact that they all aren’t sitting on stacks of cash, is there a reason why so many consistently find a way to give back to their community when it might be easier just to take the money for themselves? They’d likely all answer the way Davis did.

“We are still fighting for equality in our sport but I think about all my teammates and hockey players and how selfless we are because we have to be in a game like hockey. I was taught at a young age to give and just think ‘what can you do to help others?’ Right now I’m in a good situation, I have food on the table, I have a roof over my head, I go to bed in a warm bed, I literally have nothing to complain about so I just thought ‘what can I do to help other people?’”

In the meantime, these two are gearing up for a two-week bubble season in Lake Placid which you can watch live on Twitch starting January 23.

“It’s going to be a great time in Lake Placid and it’s going to be really good exposure for women’s sports and I know it’s probably not the season we wanted but they’re doing something for us and I think that’s a really big step in the right direction,” Davis said. “I’m so excited, I just want to play hockey so badly, I’ve been counting down the days, I want to get on the ice, I want to play in a game, I want to put my uniform on, I want it to be game day so badly. I miss hockey so so much.”

If you would like to buy merchandise for Davis to contribute to her causes you can do so on the Boston Pride store website, or donate directly to the Travis Roy Foundation.