Inaugural ‘Lil Mac Hustle & Heart Scholarship awarded

Littleton graduate Susie Puchino holds the 'Lil Mac Hustle & Heart Scholarship award during the presentation June 9 at the Gold Crown Field House. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

LAKEWOOD — Recent high school graduates Blake Schell (Green Mountain) and Susie Puchino (Littleton) received a pleasant surprise Tuesday afternoon.

Schell and Puchino were summoned to the Gold Crown Field House in Lakewood on June 9 where they both received the inaugural ‘Lil Mac Hustle & Heart Scholarship.

“It means the world to me,” said Schell after being awarded the $2,000 scholarship which he’ll have when he begins his college basketball career at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. “It’s an amazing award and being the first one. It’s incredible and an honor to have.”

Puchino will actually continue her academic and athlete career at Metro State University in Denver on the women’s soccer team.

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I’m very excited and very honored to receive this,” Puchino said. “I’ve always tried to put a lot of hustle into my game.”

The scholarship is in the memory of Lakewood High School student-athlete Mackenzie Forrest. The four-year varsity basketball player for the Tigers tragically passed away after a car accident during her senior year in 2016.

Mackenzie’s parents — Holger and Denise Forrest — have been active to keep the spirit Mackenzie brought on and off the field alive. Jeffco League basketball coaches nominated players for the scholarship.

“We found these two (Schell and Puchino) with the passion and compassion on the basketball court and also off the basketball court, which was what Mackenzie was all about,” Holger Forrest said.

This was the third year the Forrest Family has partnered with the Gold Crown Foundation on raising money and then donating it. This was the first year of creating the two scholarships per year and awarded to a male and female who were selected to the Jeffco High School Senior Basketball Games at the end of each preps hoops season.

This year’s Jeffco seniors all-star basketball games were canceled this past March 19 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It definitely lessens the blow,” said Puchino, who missed out on the spring girls soccer season her senior year that was also canceled. “This (scholarship) gives me something to look back on for all the time I put in.”

Moving forward, Holger Forrest said the Jeffco Schools Foundation will get involved and help create a criteria for the scholarship. The plan is to also add a Foundation game before the start of the high school basketball season to raise money to fund the scholarship each year.

“Our hope is they continue to foster those traits of kindness and help their community,” Forrest said of Schell and Puchino.

Schell is actually friends with Mackenize’s younger bother Gavin, who graduated from Green Mountain in 2019.

“This was a great way to end high school basketball for me,” said Schell, who was a two-sport athlete in soccer and basketball for Green Mountain. “It looses up everything a little bit.”

Green Mountain graduate Blake Schell — two sport student-athlete for the Rams — will play basketball at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)