By Richard Rhinehart
Dedham, Massachusetts, January 16, 2014 – National non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports is joining with the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and Northeast Passage of the University of New Hampshire in sponsoring the Ultimate Sports Program’s Bruins Sled Hockey Experience January 26 at Noble and Greenough School’s Bliss Omni Flood Rink.
Bringing together children with experienced athletes from the Northeast Passage Sled Hockey Team and the Western Mass Knights Sled Hockey Program, the event provides an opportunity for disabled athletes to participate in a challenging sporting event with able-bodied athletes. Joining the Sunday morning clinic and game will be three to four alumni of the Boston Bruins National Hockey League club. In past events, players Andrew Ference, Bob Sweeney and Tom Songin have participated.
“This is our third Bruins Experience and having the Boston Bruins take part in promoting our goals is every bit as important as the hockey expertise they provide on the ice on the day of the event,” said Steve Berube, Ultimate Sports Program’s Program Director. “I am looking forward to this year’s event because we are going to be joined by the Western Mass Knights, our local sled hockey team. Their coach, Tim Glagow, has volunteered his time to run our practices and they have given us extra ice time by inviting our kids to share in their practices at Amelia Park.”
“Our 16 kids range in age from six to 17 years old. Seven of those kids have a special need and nine are what we consider typical athletes,” explained Berube. “The special needs include a high school junior with Down Syndrome, and a high school sophomore with Asperger Syndrome. One of USP’s younger players includes a six-year-old girl with diabetes who is playing sports for the first time.”
Played on ice, sled hockey is a growing Paralympic sport that allows persons with disabilities to play hockey on sleds with metal runners. Players use their hockey sticks for propulsion, passing and shooting. The sticks are cut in half and have metal picks on one end for players to propel themselves, the blade end being used to shoot and pass the puck.
Partnering with Massachusetts’ non-profit organization, The Association for Community Living, Ultimate Sports Program creates sporting programs in sled hockey, basketball, football, basketball, and many outdoor activities for special needs children and teens. World T.E.A.M. Sports has for several years supported Ultimate Sports Program activities like the Bruins Experience. Berube confirms such support is helping the organization reach more children in need.
“As I continue to spread the word of our program and our goal of social inclusion, World T.E.A.M. Sports is a shining example of the message USP is sharing with the families across western Massachusetts,” he said. “Families with a child having a disability are often afraid to introduce them to competitive sports, especially in the city or school sports level. Our relationship with World T.E.A.M. Sports has definitely helped get families to sign on with USP.”
Van Brinson, World T.E.A.M. Sports’ CEO and President, is complimentary regarding the relationship with Ultimate Sports Program. “As we move forward, World T.E.A.M. Sports is going to continue our outreach into the entire disabled community. Events for kids are one sector in which we will continue to expand our influence. Events such as these allow us to introduce athletic competition to these children.”
“USP uses our events with the Boston Pro Sports teams – Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots – as a great tool to encourage more typical athletes to come and check out our program. We have grown from ten baseball families rallying around a little boy with Down Syndrome to over 600 families over the past eight years,” said Berube. “Most of that growth is from families who have a child with a special need, so we are always looking for better ways to encourage ‘typical’ athletes to take part whenever they can.”
World T.E.A.M. Sports is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization chartered in North Carolina and headquartered in Holbrook, New York. For more than 20 years, World T.E.A.M. Sports has organized athletic events for disabled and able bodied citizens – mountain climbing, white water rafting, biking, and more. Four things always happen at our events: (1) Disabled participants build self-confidence and physical fitness; (2) The disabled provide a role model for other disabled citizens, encouraging them to take up physical activities; (3) The disabled become a moving inspiration to other participants and to spectators when they see that disabled individuals can meet challenges beyond anyone’s imagination; and (4) The disabled and able-bodied participants learn to work as a team to overcome those challenges. World T.E.A.M. Sports changes lives through sports.