Air Force goalie Chris Dylewski says he has received far more from Colorado Springs and the academy than he has given.
He is being humble. The 2010 Pine Creek graduate has made an indelible mark on his native city and the service academy with his seemingly tireless efforts to help others.
It has not gone unnoticed. The senior cadet leader is one of 18 nominees for the national Hockey Humanitarian Award, which recognizes student-athletes making significant contributions to their team and their community as a volunteer leader. The 2016 finalists will be announced in February, with the recipient named April 8.
Dylewski founded the nonprofit RISE Inc., which develops ethical and inspirational leadership in young people. RISE helps young people, many underprivileged, run their own community service projects, and mentors and supports them along the way. One RISE project collected more than 900 pairs of shoes for the needy.
The organization garnered him a Spirit of the Springs award from Mayor John Suthers. There are also many short-term community outreach projects he has spearheaded with the hockey team, including helping the Wounded Warrior sled hockey team. He and several others spent their Sundays assisting the athletes, doing everything from handling packing equipment for practices, adjusting the sleds and coaching.
With so many worthwhile projects, Dylewski admits it is hard to pick his favorite. His time with a local 8-year-old, Jason, who suffers from a rare skeletal disease, may have been the most personally rewarding.
Dylewski spends a considerable amount of time with Jason and his family, making them a part of hockey program by bringing them to practices and games, visiting his school and brightening the boy's days.
He is excited to continue working with RISE after graduation this May.
"I expect to be as involved 25 years from now," he said. "It's selfish, really. I get a lot from helping young people develop as ethical leaders."
All the community work has not distracted him from his work as a cadet.
Dylewski has held the highest possible rank and position in each of his first three years, including overseeing 3,000 cadets in one role.
As a sophomore, inspired by a classmate who committed suicide, he created the annual Guide to Cadet Life for freshmen. The publication is in its third year.
That is also how Dylewski helps Falcons hockey. His willingness to be an ear for the freshmen, including the two rookie goalies, have been a boon for the Atlantic Hockey Conference program.
"He has been a great mentor for them and the other freshmen," AFA coach Frank Serratore said. "No one works harder than him on the ice, in the weight room or in the classroom. He makes this team better with what he does Monday through Thursday."
"I don't know how he does it," freshman goalie Shane Starrett said, referring to work on and off the ice. "He is always pushing us hard in practice and showing us how it is done."
He was rewarded Jan. 8 with his first college appearance when he played six scoreless minutes (two saves) in an 8-2 home win over American International. The Falcons (12-9-2, 10-5-3 AHC) play at Canisius this weekend.
"I know it sounds a bit overstated, but it was a dream come true," he said. "I started playing hockey at age 6 at Clune and I followed Air Force from wherever my father was stationed.
"I have received so much from my academy and Falcons hockey family that I have not given back nearly as much as I have received."
Whether that is true or not, he is an example for others.
"He is an excellent student at a challenging academic school, does everything being a Division 1 athlete entails and does all he does in the community while being an excellent wing leader," Serratore said. "No one has spare time here but he finds a way. That's what makes him so remarkable."
This article was written by JOE PAISLEY from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.