April 8, 2011
ST. PAUL, MINN. - If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we should all get in line to emulate Brooks Dyroff. In doing so, not only would we do justice to Dyroff, we would also dramatically increase the number of underprivileged students in third-world countries who would be able to go on to college. Because that's exactly what Dyroff plans to do.
The Boston College sophomore forward has been able to send over 40 Indonesian students to college over the last four years, the result of a not-for-profit organization called CEO 4 Teens, the brainchild of Dyroff and Kenny Haisfield, a childhood friend from Boulder, Colo.
For this and many other humanitarian deeds, Dyroff on Friday was named the 16th recipient of the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award in a ceremony at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, site of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.
Since its inception in 1996, the Hockey Humanitarian Award has sought to recognize college hockey student-athletes, Division I or III, male or female, who give back to their communities in the true humanitarian spirit.
Dyroff most certainly is an exemplary model of what the Foundation seeks to honor.
In Boulder, when he wasn't in the classroom or on the ice, Dyroff was always looking for someone to help. Along with Haisfield, Dyroff started working for community food banks, and made lunches for senior citizens and homeless shelters. "We loved it," Dyroff reflects. "It was also a tipping point for us. We thought maybe we could put something together all by ourselves."
Having returned from a family vacation in Indonesia, Haisfield shared with Dyroff all he had seen: struggling communities of close-knit families where deserving students were unable to go on to college to carve a better future for themselves due to lack of funds. After much introspection, CEO 4 Teens (Creating Educational Opportunities For Teens; www.ceo4teens.com) was born. Its immediate goal was straightforward: to award at least ten college scholarships every year to deserving Indonesian students who attended Campuhan College in Bali, Indonesia.
"At first, the figure was $600 in tuition per student for one year, but now it's up to about $1,000, so our goal is to raise at least $10,000 a year to send ten students to college," says Dyroff, who played for the AAA Colorado Thunderbirds and at Philips Andover Academy before arriving at Boston College. "But we don't just ask for straight out donations; instead we've added a community service angle. We've asked for pledges in return for community service hours in Boulder."
Impressively, in its four years of existence, CEO 4 Teens has never failed on meeting its annual goal, and in some years has actually exceeded it.
"Some years it was hard, especially with the general economic downturn," Dyroff remembers. "But when we made our first trip over there (during the summer of 2007), we took a lot of video and used it to thank our donors and show them how their money was seriously changing lives." That video, by the way, became a movie called "A Drop in the Bucket," which won six short documentary awards all over the country.
Dyroff and Haisfield have made two trips together to Indonesia to interview scholarship nominees. When prospective students were asked several qualifying questions, including "What is happiness to you?" almost every response included food on the table, family and friends. When each of the recipients was told of their success, most of them - and their families - cried with the knowledge of the changes this would mean to their lives: as individuals, families and as villages. Dyroff and Haisfield cried as well.
As with the kids he's helped, nothing has come easy for Dyroff. He was a recruited walk-on to BC. Paying for school has been a challenge, and he has fought hard for his opportunities on ice. A parallel to his humanitarian works? In so many ways, yes.
"I'm trying to work my way up, just like the kids we're trying to help," says Dyroff, a Hockey East All Academic Team member in 2009-2010. "Many of them are last in the pecking order and don't have much of anything. Meeting these kids has been so helpful to me, and I want to make the most of the opportunity to make life easier for them."
He may not play every game, but Boston College head coach Jerry York says Dyroff makes a difference every day.
"When we were recruiting Chris Kreider from Andover, their coach (Dean Boylan) told me to take a look at Brooks," York remembers. "He said he would help our team in all different aspects, both on the ice and away from the rink, and he has more than done that. He brings an intangible to our team and embodies all we want from our student-athletes. We took a chance on Brooks," York continues, "and he's been very conscious of not only being a better hockey player, but being an example to others. He has a certain charisma, and he is more than deserving of this award."
Off the ice, Dyroff's efforts aren't entirely exclusive to Indonesia, as he's worked diligently to create similar programs here on his home soil. Using the CEO 4 Teens model, he's building a program at nearby Roxbury, Mass., Community College to help underprivileged high school students obtain their GED's. Last year, at about $400 per person in cost, he helped three kids sit for the GED exam, and just like in Indonesia, his goal is to assist at least ten young men and women per year.
Also while at Boston College, Dyroff established a local version of Mathletes, an after school math enrichment program. Additionally, he has launched a Micro Finance Program which offers grants to students looking to launch a business, or to help them offset local commuting costs. For this, he created yet another film documentary called "Change for Change," which won awards in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Be it East or West, domestic or overseas, Dyroff has left an impact everywhere he's been.
"I have never been around a young man that wanted to help others as much as Brooks," says Angelo Ricci, a former University of Denver forward and Dyroff's midget minor coach back home. "His focus on helping others and attention to detail is something I will always remember about him. He would sacrifice anything on or off the ice to help a teammate, friend or person he just met. To find such a quality is so unique, it just captivates you as a coach and human being."
Dyroff is the second Hockey Humanitarian recipient to come from Boston College, following Sarah Carlson, who received the award in 2005. Yet for all he's accomplished, Dyroff feels the past isn't nearly as important as the future. "These experiences have given me so much," he says. "I've started a journey that I hope to never end."
The BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award is awarded annually to college hockey's finest citizen and seeks to recognize college hockey players, Division I or Division III, male or female, who give back to their community in the true humanitarian spirit. We seek not to simply celebrate Hall of Fame athletes, but rather Hall of Fame human beings.