BRONXVILLE, NY - Florida Southern College women's lacrosse standout Shannon Mazza has been named as a finalist for the Yeardley Reynolds Love ("YRL") Unsung Hero Award, the One Love Foundation announced earlier this week. The award is given annually to six collegiate lacrosse players, one men's and one women's from each NCAA Division of play, who make significant contributions to their team both on and off the field, while showing exemplary leadership qualities and participating in community service.
Mazza is one of three finalists from the Division II ranks, and the winners will be announced later this month. The YRL Unsung Hero Award winners will receive a $250 donation toward the charity of their choice. Over the past four years, Mazza has been actively involved in a number of community service efforts with the Moccasin women's lacrosse team and has a passion for working with children with special needs.
"I absolutely love working with all children, but particularly children with special needs," said Mazza. "They've got such a pure joy and love of life that permeates everything they do. Their smiles, their hugs - everything is just so pure and innocent with them and its a privilege to work with them."
A recent graduate of Florida Southern after receiving her degree in nursing at this past weekend's commencement ceremonies, Mazza has helped organize her team's involvement in the annual "Night to Shine" event at First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland. The annual event closely resembles major award events such as the Academy Awards, with a hint of a high-school prom. Each year, more than 90,000 guests with special needs attend Night to Shine events around the world and get the full VIP treatment, including a walk down the red carpet.
"Night to Shine is my absolute favorite event that we volunteer with," said Mazza. "It's been an absolute joy and honor to help organize the event at First Presbyterian here in Lakeland, and we've started plans to host monthly events on a smaller scale, but similar to the fun and fanfare of Night to Shine."
Mazza, who has scored 24 goals for the Mocs this season, has worked with special needs children and adults since high school and hopes that her career as a pediatric nurse will lead to an even bigger impact in the lives of children.
"It's really awesome to be recognized as a finalist for the Unsung Hero Award," said Mazza. "But more than anything, I think this really speaks to just how involved our team is. My teammates really care about the community around them, and being named as a finalist for this award is something I also consider to be a team honor."
The One Love Foundation was started in 2010 in memory of former University of Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love, who was tragically murdered just weeks prior to her graduation from UVA. To find out more about the One Love Foundation, please visit www.JoinOneLove.org or watch the video below.