As a huge hockey fan and the parent of a child with autism, I was thrilled to learn about the American Special Hockey Association several years ago. I immediately knew that I wanted to get involved to give more children the opportunity to learn and grow by playing this great sport. I started as a volunteer, then a coach, and now a board member. The program continues to improve and grow thanks to committed partners, coaches, parents, volunteers, and donors. As a donor, I like the fact that all donations directly support programs -- because ASHA has no paid staff or board members. When you support ASHA or any individual ASHA program, you can be assured that you are directly helping put more children on the ice, putting smiles on their faces, and contributing to their health and well-being.
Until my son started playing hockey, he had never had any desires to play any sort of group sports. He was 12 years old at the time, and was carrying multiple diagnoses of BiPolar Disorder, ADHD & Asperger's Syndrome. He never had the patience to learn, & quite honestly, most players and coaches of the teams we tried just didn't have the patience for him. I learned about ASHA from another mom on an adaptive baseball team we were trying out. Since Tristan's cousin plays (sledge) hockey, we decided to just go for the session & see what it was all about. That was 4 years ago. Even though he had never skate on the ice before, he was up & at it & ready to go! Everyone has patience beyond paitence for him and all the kids - and the kids have so much patience & support & "team" with each other!! Where was once a kid who despised group activities before this, now stands a confident, friendly outgoing young man who will do anything for anyone involved, not just his particular team, but anyone at all with ASHA. The "normal"-ness he now feels when he's out on the ice is amazing. I could never stand out there with him, because hearing my son talk about his friends - his hockey family, as he calls them - melts my heart each and every time. I just really cannot imagine my son's life without his hockey.
Where do I start with how much America special hockey has helped my child? My son started to play special hockey 3 years ago. He has a dx of High functioning Autism/ Asperger syndrome. Shawn has never " fit in " until he started to play hockey. He feels that he is part of a " real team " and has become a team player! The friendships that he has made will last a lifetime. Special hockey has made a HUGE difference in who he is today! He stared out as an overweight child and now has lost weight and is a healthy happy child! He loves NOTHING more than being on the ice with his friends, and coaching staff. They NEVER let him give up and give him the self confidence he has always lacked! I now am watching my son help other children that are just starting out on the team that he plays for! Just this past weekend we were in Columbus, Ohio playing another wonderful team. I watch my son help a few kids on his team score a goal. The fact that he was looking out for another player was wonderful ! When Shawn first started playing hockey I always joke and say he started out ' laying ' on the ice! He had no idea on how to skate... Looking back to where he came from to what a player he is now, is just AMAZING! How American hockey has helped me as a parent? I will say that it has helped me network with other parents and I too have made so many friends. We look forward to going to games, it's like a family vacation for us. I've met some of the best people you could ever ask for! American special hockey has done more for us as family than you will ever know! Thank YOU! Kristin Gallagher
I love working with ASHA. I work with the NOVA Cool Cats every week when I'm home. We're like one big family. We do lots of drill that help the kids and we always play a game at the end. At Cool Cats we are always moving so there is never a moment of down time. I love coming home from college and seeing how much they have improved since I last left. I miss them so much.
I found out about ASHA by accident. While living in the Washington DC area and going to school for sports management my adviser told me to get online and write a hockey blog - so I did.
Before I came to the DC area I worked as a special education para educator in Michigan and what ASHA does for their athletes is unparalleled to anything else out there.
The individuals that work behind the scenes, the coaches, the volunteers that come in to help at events, like last winters Outdoor Festival in Toledo, Ohio. It is all of these people that make ASHA what it is. My time working as a para I saw kids that were being mainstreamed that knew they were different from the majority of their classmates and the effect it had on them. To have a place where they can go and play a sport and learn life skills is beneficial in countless ways - some that we may never realize.
Having an organization that is dedicated to making the best situation for every athlete is important. Some show up to their first practice and have never laced up ice skates before; but the coaches and volunteers are there and assist them all along the way.
The American Special Hockey Association is much more than a sporting organization, it's a life changing activity that everyone involved with it benefits from.
If I hadn’t met the families and administrators of ASHA, I’d have thought it all sounded too good to be true.
Both in casual conversations spanning many years, and during interviews for a freelance article a few years ago, I’ve had the honor of getting to know the folks who run ASHA and those who participate as players and volunteers. Forgive the cliché, but this program truly embodies doing the Lord’s work. It benefits the players by teaching teamwork, structure, and inclusiveness. It gives them opportunities to earn all sorts of victories -- very few of them measured on a scoreboard. And as the players themselves put it, the program is fun.
For the parents, ASHA is invaluable. The ones I’ve met all described the program glowingly. They said it has been life-changing for their kids. Most also said ASHA offers an unrivaled and unparalleled experience both for them and for the players.
As for those running the program, there aren’t enough superlatives to properly credit them.
ASHA is the Stanley Cup champion of nonprofits!
When I look at my son, I have a very difficult time believing he is now 27. Time goes by so very fast. George is a man. He is strong and handsome. He is full of life. He looks so very normal. When George plays hockey with American Special Hockey Association, I almost forget he is autistic. There are other times I feel as if my head were in a tightening vice. Sometime George makes loud unintelligible noises. There are times George has total and complete melt downs. Sometime my son covers his eyes and hears. Sometime he hits himself. It's one thing when it takes place at home. It's something different when it takes place in a crowded mall or restaurant. I see the fear on the faces of strangers. I can't blame them. George and I have been a team from the very beginning. I still don't fully understand autism.
George has angels. Amazing people enter his life at precisely the right time. Angels resist the human impulse to stare. Angles don’t run the other way. Angels have helped George in both large and small ways. George's angels have taken the form of teachers, bus drivers, neighbors and coaches. The fact George has angels is a source of great comfort. Mike Hickey and American Special Hockey Association are angels. Mike Hickey and American Special Hockey Association have made a difference in George’s life.
George Stone JR
I have been very fortunate that my family has been a part of this organization since its inception. I am proud to have been a part of its growth and seen its leadership continue to excel. ASHA supports all of its athletes and specifically the needs at the local level. The dedication by all those involved makes this a positive experience for all the athletes and their families.
I am honored to be a member of this life changing organization. 100% goes back to the players. For players with a developmental disability, ASHA is unbeatable in the area of "life skills through hockey". This organization will bend over backwards to help a new program get going anywhere in the United States.
American Special Hockey provides ALL children an opportunity to be part of a team and to learn a sport. Physical activity is important for all growing children, but many children are kept out of sports programs. This program gives ALL students an opportunity for exercise and growth. Many, many children face discrimination when they try to participate in sports. ASHA welcomes all children with open arms. And, you know what happens? The children learn, grow, blossom and become better students! Sports works to develop the whole child, and it works for ALL children.
This organization gives individuals an opportunity to play ice hockey tha are normally excluded due to their developmental challenges. The game is adaptive to their needs, and gives them a chance to become a team and team mates. It has proven to be much more then just a sport for the players, social skills have improved, school performances have improved, and even job skills have improved. It has made life lessons outside of the ice rink.