Hockey is for EveryBODY

By Christine Tepper

Jack’s Bar Mitzvah project. What to do to give back? Something that he can connect with, get others involved in and be motivated by? So many need so much, and he’s just a kid. But, it all starts with one…

Reading the October AHAI newsletter, the headline was “Volunteers needed for the 2018 Disabled Hockey Festival in Chicago!” Wait. How perfect! I’ve never even heard of this! It’s the second largest USA Hockey event, after the Pond Hockey National Championships. Fast forward five months, and our entire family has become involved with this incredible event. Even better, Evanston Hockey has become involved, and our players and families are giving back, in a big way.

Hundreds of emails later, we connected with coaches and volunteers, trying to make this the biggest and best Disabled Hockey Festival ever. Turns out, it will be. In its 14th year, the Festival moves to a different city every year. This year, it takes place over the first two weekends in April at the Leafs Ice Center in West Dundee and the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. More than 1,500 athletes from the USA, Canada and the UK will compete in Blind/Visually Impaired, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Standing Amputee, Warrior, Special and Sled Hockey. The entire second weekend is devoted to Sled with more than 75 Sled teams competing.

Once the athletes arrive, all of their expenses are covered. Ice time, awards, meals, transportation, housing, team banners, gifts – all covered for these inspirational athletes. That means raising more than $200,000. Jack sold USA Hockey Disabled Festival wristbands at Hockey Days in Evanston. The response to learning about this festival was amazing. Parents and kids both wanting to get involved.

Enter the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team. Some of our Evanston Wildkits scrimmaged with the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team for two hours on a Sunday at the MB Ice Arena. For all of the parents in the stands, this scrimmage will be one of the best hockey parent memories. As one of the coaches from the Special Hockey team said, “Your boys got it.”

Our Kits were gracious and giving teammates out there, passing the puck to the CBSH team players, cheering on every goal made and every goal stopped. To see our boys high five and hug the CBSH players brought tears to our eyes in the stands. A player with Downs Syndrome scored his first goal ever that day. His dad happened to be at the glass and caught that moment on his phone. His dad said that being a part of the Blackhawks Special Hockey Team has changed his son’s life. It has changed ours, too.

The Disabled Hockey Festival has a saying, “Hockey is for everyBODY.” The scrimmage between the Evanston Wildkits and the Blackhawks Special Hockey team will hopefully become an annual event, creating a partnership between our Evanston Hockey community and the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team for years to come.

Never underestimate the power of your kid and one project. He might just change some lives.

Feeling inspired? Want to volunteer during the Disabled Hockey Festival? See below for your chance to sign up!

Volunteer Sign-up for West Dundee: Week 1 – April 5-8 & Week 2 – April 12-15
Week 1-Leafs Ice Centre Sign Up
Week 2- Leafs Ice Centre Sign Up

Volunteer Sign-up for Geneva: Week 1 – April 5-8 and Week 2-  April 12-15
Week 1-Fox Valley Ice Arena Sign Up
Week 2-Fox Valley Ice Arena Sign Up

Volunteer Sign-up for Hoffman Estates -Only April 13th
Week 2-Hoffman Estates Volunteer Sign Up

Volunteer Sign-up for the Social Event on Friday nights
Week 1-Social Event, April 6th
Week 2-Social Event, April 13th

Categories: Disabled Hockey

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