By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a young athlete playing junior hockey with the Oakville Blades in Ontario, Canada, it's hard to imagine freshman forward Sean Kohler had time to do anything but train. However, years of prioritizing community involvement outside of hockey led to attention from the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and at the end of the 2014-15 season Kohler was named the OJHL Humanitarian of the Year.
Kohler has been involved in numerous community service activities, both by his own initiative and through the Oakville Blades organization. Kohler, along with his family, traveled to sub-Saharan Africa with the Me to We/Free the Children program. There they constructed schools for local communities. At the end of the 2014-15 season, Kohler once again took flight with the same program, only this time traveling to northern India.
"[The Oakville Blades organization] believed I had a shot at winning the award, so they nominated me for it," Kohler said. "I wrote a piece on my adventures, on what I had learned. and I was fortunate enough to win, which is a huge honor not only for myself but for my family as well."
Kohler's family has long emphasized giving back, which has influenced Kohler to be involved in the communities in which he lives.
"When we can help children in impoverished communities gain an education that they otherwise wouldn't get, it's a very rewarding feeling and it can have a large impact on so many lives," Kohler said.
At Penn State, community service and involvement is emphasized among all student-athletes. Penn State has a rich history of student-athletes contributing to community service projects and other causes. The men's hockey team specifically reads to children at local schools, are avid THON participants, and even this Sunday will be supporting the Fit-For-Fritz Walk-A-Thon.
"I'm extremely proud of Penn State Athletics' involvement in community service," Kohler said. "THON is obviously an extremely powerful event that I couldn't be more excited to be a part of."
Kohler has had his own discussions with the veterans on the team about how to be more involved in THON from a men's hockey perspective. He is also excited for the next four years and beyond to become good friends with the Nittany Lions' THON child, Colton Buckley.
"As a freshman this year I'll probably be in more of an observing role," Kohler said. "I know that in the following years I'll be wanting to take charge and run some of that."
Even the smallest of events, such as the men's hockey team handing out candy this past Sunday for trick-or-treaters at the Penn State All-Sports Museum, highlight Kohler's day. Seeing smiling children who are excited to see their Nittany Lions is very powerful to Kohler.
Kohler, who has played in one contest so far this season, at Notre Dame, is eager to continue to contribute to the team both on and off the ice. It's more than just his on-ice performance that is important to Kohler, he wants to do whatever possible to win on the ice as well as become an involved member of the community."I felt great out there and felt I was able to keep up with the speed of the game very well," Kohler said. "It was a confidence booster for sure. I've been working to show what I've got and I'm eager to get in to more games."