At 23 years old, Mandi Schwartz lost her two-and-a-half year battle with leukemia.
Eight years later, friends, family and complete strangers came out to River Landing on Saturday to honour the hockey player’s memory and legacy with the seventh annual Run for Mandi.
“Mandi was an athlete, she was a person who enjoyed school, enjoyed studying, she was a good kid, she was a family orientated person,” said Carol Schwartz, Mandi’s mother. “She was just really easy to love because she was true, honest, good kid.”
“Just a person who loved life, who loved people, who was very kind hearted, who would’ve done this for somebody else,” she added.
“It’s been a while now, but it just seems like yesterday for me,” said Rick Schwartz.
“She was just so humble and laid back, and I would say focused, very focused individual, very kind and loved her teammates. She loved sports and always worked so hard, I was so proud of her.”
It was important to make the event something active and outdoors to continue Mandi’s legacy, according to her parents.
“She trained so hard, and was so athletic. She did everything she could to stay in shape and to better herself in the sports she participated in, and we just knew the outdoors representing her and this run, it’s just who she was,” said Carol.
The run aims to raise awareness about the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness to people that it’s easy to register, that there is a need for people to register and that giving a bone marrow donation is not such a scary thing,” said Carol
“In today’s world, a lot of times a donation is just via blood donation.”
According to Rick, over 6,000 people have been swabbed at bone marrow drives at Yale, with 35 people being perfect matches.
The run also raises funds for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation at Yale, local causes supporting cancer awareness and treatment and the Mandi Schwartz Memorial Bursary at Notre Dame College.
“That was one thing that was deep in her heart, was to help Notre Dame, because they obviously helped our family so much. She wanted to give back to that and help individuals experience what she did at Notre Dame, so we help out three girls every year,” said Rick. “It’s up to $23,000 per year.”
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On Saturday, around $28,000 was raised, and over the past seven years, close to $200,000 has been collected.
“It’s just a special day for the Schwartz family here and we want to thank everyone that’s supporting us and keeping Mandi’s legacy alive. It means the world to us, and hopefully we can save lives by doing this,” said Rick.
And while Mandi isn’t here to join in the walk herself, her parents say she would have been proud.
“She didn’t like to be in the limelight, but she did like to help others out. So I think she would’ve been very proud. She’d be proud that we chose an outdoor event, and a beautiful place like here in Saskatoon, and a run and that it draws people together to honour her,” said Carol.
“She would just be all smiles, and she said before, ‘Well, why are they doing this for me?’ Even when she was in the hospital and I said, ‘Mandi, it’s because of who you are, and people love you and you’re such a special person,'” said Rick.