If you’ve been reading my blog this past year, then you’re probably well aware of my fan-girling for Paralympics and adaptive sport. You probably also know that I will be completing a capstone project with Para Sport DC at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in the spring. Pumped, pumped, pumped. You know why? Two words. Sled Sharks.
NRH is home to the DC Sled Sharks, a sled hockey team for disabled youngsters in the DC metro area. Every week these guys meet up for practice at Kettler Capital Ice, the official training rink of Washington Capitals. Same ice, same game, same rules. Only difference is instead of skates, the players are seated on specially-designed sleds with two hockey blades on the bottom. They use two wooden sticks with metal picks on the ends to push off the ice and control the puck.
Coach Brian Dutton explained to WAMU: “We’ve had kids with Spina Bifida, amputees, conjoined twins — two players that were connected at the head — on two different sleds…Once you get out on the ice, [disabilities don’t] matter, it’s playing the game,” he says. “They love throwing big hits. Everything about hockey, these guys are into!”
Adaptive activities for youth are not just limited to sports either. The Boston Ballet runs an adaptive dance program with Children’s Hospital, Boston for children with Down Syndrome. The Dance Council of North Texas serves people of all ages in the Dallas area, including those challenged by Parkinson’s, severe autism, and difficulties from aging. As often happens with the Olympics, one of the most inspiring stories of adaptive dance came out of China during the Beijing Games. In 2008, an earthquake shook the Sichaun region of China, leaving nearly 70,000 people dead and thousands more trapped and hurt. After more than 70 hours, 11-year old Li Yue was saved from the rubble of her school, but in order to be freed, her leg had to be amputated. While her classmates succumbed to injuries, malnutrition, and lack of air all around her, dreams of dancing again kept Li encouraged and alive. Four months later with the help of therapy, trainers, and a spirit most of us could only dream of mustering, Li danced Ravel’s Bolero at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games opening.
Stay tuned for my experience with the DC Sled Sharks and more in the spring!