Help Wanted: Volunteers Vital to Making Disabled Hockey Festival a Success

While hundreds have signed up, many more are needed

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI

For the first time in a decade, the Toyota-USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival is back in Chicago.

Over 1,500 participants are expected for the event. That number doesn’t include all the family and friends who will be traveling to cheer on their favorite athletes.

The 14th annual Disabled Hockey Festival will stretch over two weekends for the first time ever. Participants will compete in six disabled hockey disciplines: sled, special, standing/amputee, deaf/hard of hearing, warrior and blind. All disciplines (except sled) will be held April 5-8 at the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Illinois, with overflow games running at Fox Valley Ice Arena in nearby Geneva. The sled competition will run the following week from April 12-15.

With so many events and so many participants and family and friends, volunteers are in great demand.

According to volunteer coordinator Malisa Komalarajun, 200 volunteers have signed up to help, but 600 more volunteers are needed.

“The festival is so big this year we have to try and accommodate covering all these different rinks,” Komalarajun said.

If a person is able to help for a few hours during the tournament, that’s perfect. Any little bit helps, organizers add.

“We’re not expecting them to pick up like three days of shifts,” Komalarajun said. “If they can do one day and they can do like a four-hour, five-hour shift, we certainly appreciate it. We’re not looking to force people to pick up crazy amounts of shifts.”

Said Disabled Hockey Festival Social Chair April Fryza: “If people want to volunteer in a very relaxed and fun environment, this is the place to be.”

Fryza notes there isn’t a job that’s too small.

“You may think that you’re just doing something small, but you may not realize how much impact it has on our population,” Fryza said. “We have blind, deaf, special, standing amputee warrior. Just to have somebody there supporting them in any fashion, you’re changing lives by doing what you’re doing. That volunteer job is not as small as you think.”

Komalarajun and Fryza — who are also both coaches for the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team — have been reaching out to coaches, teams and various churches in the communities where the event will be held to attract interest.

“We really just want people to understand that there are these different levels of hockey out there,” Komalarajun said. “If you want to come help out at the festival, you can also catch some of these games.”

There are a variety of positions available to volunteer for, which include locker room monitoring, working the registration desk, checking in volunteers, helping people with equipment rinkside, simply monitoring tables that have poster-making stations, helping people make posters and raffle ticket sales.

Komalarajun said shifts are broken up into four- to five-hour blocks running 6 a.m. into the evening. There is certainly flexibility in signing up for a time slot. Komalarajun will accommodate anyone who is interested in volunteering.

“We have stuff in every area; there is something for somebody,” Fryza said. “And by gosh, we will find a place for them, happily.”

Said Komalarajun: “I’d prefer if they took shifts, but if they need to do that, definitely contact me and we would make it work.”

Komalarajun recommends anyone interested in volunteering — and kids are welcome to sign up if they are accompanied by an adult — should contact her at

Komalarajun is optimistic all the volunteer spots will be filled by the time the festival gets underway.

“A lot of people are willing to do double duty and a lot of people are also willing to float more and not have a set duty and, ‘Tell me where to go,’” Komalarajun said.

Fryza, who will be attending her seventh Disabled Hockey Festival either as a coach or fan, cheering on her brother who has special needs, is excited for the event.

“This is the Super Bowl of hockey, it really is,” Fryza said. “There is no other festival in the United States as big or like this. You’re changing lives. Showing your smiling face, waving hi. ‘Hey, do you want to take a picture?’ It means the world to them. The payment you get in return is watching them.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


Categories: Disabled Hockey, Hockey Headlines, Players in the News

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