Reason for the Rink invites youth from Easter Seals program
For the first time since Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s resident Todd Churchill created an ice surface in his back yard, youth involved in Easter Seals’ sledge hockey program donned their gear for an outdoor game.
“I wanted the kids to have the same experience as a lot of people have had on my rink this year,” said Churchill, whose son Carter has cerebral palsy and is deaf.
Along with his wife Kimberley the Churchill family has worked diligently to raise money through Reason for the Rink for charities that assist children like Carter, who was born in 2011.
Youth who were out to brave the cool weather conditions Sunday morning eagerly darted around the rink on their specialized sledges, which have detachable skate blades on them. For the remainder of the year, the sledges are attached to wheels so Easter Seals kids can play ball hockey.
According to Easter Seals program director Eileen Bartlett, 14 youth are registered in the sledge hockey program. Easter Seals also loans the sledges to schools so students who cannot skate standing up are able to attend school-organized skating events.
“It’s a full and inclusive program,” said Bartlett.
To help move around, sledge hockey players use ice picks on the end of their short sticks to push off the ice and propel themselves forward or backward.
The Easter Seals players were joined by Liam Hickey, a local sledge hockey player who was invited last year to the National Sledge Team’s training camp at the age of 15. The national team is now in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador, Mazol Shriners and Rainbow Riders — Therapeutic Riding Newfoundland and Labrador are the charities benefiting from Reason for the Rink’s sponsors and donors. This year, Reason for the Rink has raised more than $52,000.
So far this winter, conditions have generally been favourable for maintaining an outdoor rink, though Churchill admits there have been a few rough periods.
“I had winter, and then I had spring, and then I had winter again, so I’m after losing (the rink) completely twice and gotten it back,” he said. “It’s been a lot longer (season) than last year. Last year, the rink was over at the end of January, because February was really mild.”
Easter Seals had hoped last year to skate on the rink, but weather prevented that from happening.
“I’m delighted that Todd was able to do this for us,” said Bartlett. “It’s an amazing project.”
It takes commitment and focus to get the ice surface made. Once his children are asleep, Todd takes his hose out and simply fills the enclosed area with water for several hours.
“I wait until they go to bed at 9 p.m. or 9:30 and then I’ll come out until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, until I get too tired,” he said.