By Bill Burt
---- — Tucker Mullin used to come home to Andover to get his laundry done and enjoy a few home-cooked meals and some rest in his old bedroom.
His trip this past weekend was a little different.
Mullin hopped a train from New York City to Boston, then Boston to Andover, to do what he has always done best: Help others in need.
The 23-year-old graduate of St. Anselm College in May came here to help co-direct the fourth annual Just Cure Paralysis Golf Tournament at Andover Country Club this past Monday. The tourney benefits the Thomas E. Smith Foundation (ww.justcureparalysis.org), which helps families that have suffered from a paralyzing injury.
The foundation is up and running stronger than ever, as is the man for whom it is named. Thomas Smith has now twice recovered, albeit not fully, from two hockey accidents in which he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Now, Smith walks with a cane, with 100 percent mobility in his left leg and about 15 percent mobility in his right leg. Smith also has no feeling near his waist.
“Tucker is and always will be a special guy,” said Smith, a Marblehead native who lives in Los Angeles part of the year. “He was there at the beginning, when I needed something most. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”
This was the fourth annual tourney, which means these guys were college students when they decided to start a foundation and raise money via a charity golf fundraiser.
Does anybody know college students this mature? I know I wasn’t one of them.
“I’ve always thought it was important to help people in need,” Mullin said. “I got that from my upbringing. My parents (Joe and Colleen) are special people. Sure, it wasn’t easy being a student, playing college hockey and then starting a foundation, but this was special. This was worth all of the work.”
This year’s installment of the tournament raised $32,000, more than doubling last year’s proceeds.
But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was the message and sharing it with about 140 other people, who saw former Merrimack College hockey player Chic Kelly and North Andover resident Chris Boshar, in wheelchairs, telling their stories.
“You don’t really understand what this means to me,” Boshar said to the crowd of amateur golfers.
Kelly, a native of Philadelphia, took a more humorous route in his message to the audience. He talked about the phone call a few years ago that he got from Mullin a few weeks before “Chic Kelly Night” at Merrimack College.
“Tucker said he wanted (the foundation) to be part of Chic Kelly Night,” recalled Kelly, an economics and philosophy teacher at Malvern Prep in Malvern, Pa. “I’m thinking, ‘Hey buddy, this is my night. I don’t want people butting in on my night.’
“Honestly, Tucker is a special guy and the foundation does so much to help people with some financial struggles,” Kelly said. “There was no way I was going to miss this tournament.”
The tournament has been just part of a busy year for Mullin.
Not only did he wrap up a stellar career in the classroom (high honors) with a stellar year on the ice (St. A’s won its fourth straight Northeast-10 championship), but he won college hockey’s prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award for his charitable work. He’s been a huge proponent of St. A’s part in Team Impact, in which the school takes on a child with a debilitating disease.
On top of that, he had surgery on his shoulder and then started his finance job at BNY Mellon Wealth Management in New York City.
“I really want to see this through,” Mullin said of the Thomas E. Smith Foundation. “We’ve only started. We have a lot of growth ahead of us, getting the word out and making this tournament bigger every year.
“I get inspired when I see Tommy’s improvements, when I talk to Chic or Chris. They all have great attitudes. It makes me want to help even more.”
Bill Burt is executive sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune.