In January 2024, the Stonehill women’s ice hockey team partnered with the National Marrow Donor Program to host a registry and swab event at the Leo J. Meehan School of Business. This program marked the second recent instance in which Hannah Squires ’26, a defender for the team, was involved in efforts to assist those in need of live-saving transplants. 

During the fall 2023 semester, the biology major from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, donated stem cells to a 70-year-old man diagnosed with blood cancer. Reflecting on that experience, Squires, who originally registered as a donor a few years ago, is glad she had the chance to help a fellow human being. 

“Throughout the whole process, I just kept thinking to myself, ‘If this was my mom, dad, or grandparent, I’d hope that someone else would be willing to do this,’” she said.

Squires’ donation and the recent ice hockey registry event continue a long Stonehill tradition of community members helping patients in need of donated stem cells. For two decades, Professor Emerita of Biology Sheila Barry collaborated with students to organize registry and swab events at the College every semester. In that time, at least 14 lives were saved because of matches made between Stonehill community members and patients.

“I know some people don’t love needles and don’t like the idea of having to spend a few days in recovery after they donate, but it’s absolutely worth it when you realize that you could help change someone’s entire life,” Squires said.

Members of Stonehill's Pinky Swear Club, including the group's president Rachel McCarthy '25 (left, center), make crafts for pediatric cancer patients. 

Bringing Happiness to the World

The Stonehill community’s work supporting cancer patients extends beyond hosting donor registry events. It also includes efforts managed by the student-run Pinky Swear Club. This on-campus organization is the College’s chapter of a national nonprofit, which was established in memory of Mitch Chepokas, a child with osteosarcoma who once made his father “pinky swear” to continue helping families battling cancer. 

Rachel McCarthy ’25, a health science major from Nahant, Massachusetts, currently serves as president of Stonehill’s Pinky Swear Club. 

“One of the things we do regularly is send crafts and gifts to a child who has been designated ‘All Star of the Month,’” she said. “It’s just a little way to cheer them up and let them know that there are people thinking of them and wishing them well.”

The Pinky Swear Club also hosts fundraisers in support of their All Stars. In the past, they have sold baked goods and held a 5K run. In February 2024, they organized a successful Super Bowl Squares fundraiser, which drew in nearly $2,000. 

“I like knowing that I’m putting my time and effort toward something good like this because the world is full of so many things that aren’t very happy,” McCarthy said. “Seeing the smile on these kids’ faces when you help them is such an amazing feeling.”

Cristina Tortolano ’27 (center) spends some time with the family of Isabelle “Izzy” Marie Wohlrab at a recent event hosted by the Izzy Foundation.

An IZspiring Journey

Cristina Tortolano ’27, a biochemistry major, serves alongside McCarthy as a member of the Pinky Swear Club’s executive board. Beside her involvement with this organization, she is also part of Stonehill’s Make-A-Wish Club, which collaborates with Boston’s chapter of the foundation to help fulfill the dreams of critically ill children.

“I was once on the receiving end of the Make-A-Wish experience,” Tortolano said. “I got to meet Taylor Swift when I was in the middle of cancer treatment. She was such a down-to-earth person. It was totally unreal. It’s nice to be on the other side of that now and help create experiences like that for others.”

Off-campus, Tortolano helps fundraise for the Izzy Foundation, the creation of which was inspired by Isabelle “Izzy” Marie Wohlrab, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma cancer shortly after her first birthday. The organization provides services for children and their families at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island and nationwide.

Tortolano was part of the Izzy Foundation’s inaugural Izzy IZspirers program, a nine-week initiative through which high school and college students raised funds and awareness on behalf of families battling pediatric cancer and other life-altering medical conditions. The Stonehill student designed a signature drink, which was sold at Blackie’s, an eatery in her hometown of Smithfield, Rhode Island. The drink’s proceeds went to Izzy IZspirers.

“I went through treatment with Izzy in 2011, and I became really close with her,” Tortolano said. “Knowing that I’m helping make an impact on kids like her makes me want to do all I can to help them.”

Looking to the future, Tortolano hopes to parlay her Stonehill degree into a career helping children in need. 

“I want to become a pediatric surgeon,” she said. “I’m excited by the opportunity to continue giving back to others after I graduate.”

Learn More About Hannah Squires '26

Check out The Boston Globe's recent story on the defender for the Stonehill women's ice hockey team.