Winter Sports for All: Pair of Clinics Benefit Disabled Veterans
Dartmouth women’s hockey players Reagan Fischer, left, and Ailish Forfar, right, place Roland Filion back on his runners after a spill on his sled at Campion Rink in Lebanon on Monday. Volunteers from the Dartmouth women’s and men’s hockey teams, and other recreational teams were on hand to assist during the third annual sled hockey event for disabled veterans. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
The prosthetic leg of Craig Brady, of Madbury, N,H,, stands propped against the boards with a hockey sled and helmet outside Campion Rink. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Craig Brady digs in an edge in a change of course during a sled hockey scrimmage with veterans at Campion Rink in West Lebanon on Monday. Brady stepped on an IED while serving with the Marines in Helmund Province, Afghanistan and lost part of his right leg. He began playing sled hockey at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Mark Kline of Syracuse, N.Y., who served with the Army in Afghanistan gets an exploding fist bump from Dartmouth women's hockey assistant coach Josh Liegl after being helped out of his sled by volunteer Jon Forte, right. Volunteer Nicole Humann is in the background. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Dave Santamore of Plainfield, Vt., warms up on the ice at Campion Rink in Lebanon before the New England Winter Sports Clinic sled hockey workshop for wounded veterans. Santamore, a Marine veteran who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident, volunteers at the clinic and is in his fifth year playing with the Vermont Sledcats. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Roland Filion of Manville, R.I., gets fitted into a sled with help from Jon Forte, a volunteer from Baltimore, Md., as Beverly Farnham of Barre, Vt., right, waits for a lift onto the ice at Campion Rink. "This has just given me the opportunity to do a lot of things on my bucket list," said Farnham an Army veteran with PTSD, burn and knee wounds from her service in Vietnam. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Craig Brady digs in an edge in a change of course during a sled hockey scrimmage with veterans newly initiated into the sport at Campion Rink Monday, January 14, 2013. Brady stepped on an IED while serving with the Marines in Helmund Province, Afghanistan and lost part of his right leg. He began playing sled hockey at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2011.
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Former Marine medic Michael Wetherby, left, who has nerve damage on his left side from a training accident, teaches his wife Erinn some basics as she gets comfortable on her sled. Wetherby has attended the workshop in past years and has begun playing with the Wildcats sled hockey team. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Taylor Chace, a captain of the US national sled hockey team, gathers his team before a scrimmage at the close of the workshop. Chace sustained a spinal cord injury in a game at age 16 in 2002, and while a student at the University of New Hampshire began playing sled hockey with the Northeast Passage adaptive sports program. He was an instructor at this year's workshop. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Thanks to several New Hampshire-based nonprofits, disabled veterans had quite the workout in the Upper Valley this week.
On Monday at Campion Rink, volunteers from the Dartmouth College men’s and women’s hockey teams joined personnel from Durham-based Northeast Passage for an afternoon of sled-hockey instruction and a scrimmage for wounded veterans.
Meanwhile at Mount Sunapee Resort, the New England Handicapped Sports Association held its 16th annual Winter Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans, allowing soldiers from around New England and beyond the chance to receive instruction and take part in alpine winter sports.
For the second straight year at Campion, veterans took to the ice for a three-hour sled-hockey clinic with U.S. National Sled Hockey team and player and former Paralympic medalist Taylor Chace. After several hours of instruction and practice, the vets took on Big Green players — 10 from the men’s team and four from the women’s — for a scrimmage to showcase their talents. Much like the stand-up version of the game, sled hockey involves 5-on-5 play with goalies, high speeds and plenty of contact.
The one difference? Players sit in bladed sleds use a stick in each hand to help guide maneuvering.
“The vets are great because they’re always active and eager to listen,” said the 26-year old Chace, whose legs were paralyzed in a spinal-chord injury sustained while playing for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs 10 years ago. “A lot of them are quite physically fit and you never have to worry about getting them to work harder. If anything, you have to try to get them to slow down because they want to show off their skills.”
With Dartmouth men’s coach Bob Gaudet and women’s coach Mark Hudak on hand, along with several assistant coaches, Big Green players helped Chace set up equipment and demonstrate drills.
Dartmouth assistant trainer Nicole Humann approached Hudak about the idea several years ago. It debuted at Hartford Municipal Arena (now Wendell Barwood Arena) before shifting to Campion last year.
“I was thinking about what I could do to volunteer for something and (Hudak) is a veteran himself,” Humann said. “I said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get (disabled veterans) playing hockey?’ and he said, ‘They already do. It’s called sled hockey.’ So we got in touch with Northeast Passage and it got rolling from there.”
On Mount Sunapee, the Winter Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans brought 50 vets, their families and 150 volunteers to the slopes for a week of guided skiing and snowboarding. The annual festivities also includes indoor kayaking lessons in the pool at a nearby hotel, and a basketball tournament at Sunapee High School.
It’s all part of a wide-ranging slate of programs staged by NEHSA, a 40-year old nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of those with disabilities through recreation and the outdoors.
Remaining activities this winter include a cross-country ski and snowshoe outing Jan. 27 in Eastman and the fourth annual Women Veterans Ski Appreciation Day at Mount Sunapee on March 5, along with a number of fundraisers.
NEHSA also holds a Summer Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans, drawing veterans to Mount Sunapee State Beach for adaptive kayaking, fly fishing and other activities each July.
“We do adaptive mountain biking on the Northern Rail Trail, water skiing, target shooting, all kinds of stuff,” said Meriden resident Bruce Johnstone, who sits on NEHSA’s Board of Directors. “And whatever we do, we end up keeping score in some fashion. Whenever there’s a competitive side to it, the vets want to do it.”
Johnstone is also proud of NEHSA’s after-school ski instructional program for disabled students. He began volunteering for it 11 years ago for what he called purely selfish reasons — he wanted the free ski passes NEHSA promised as compensation for each day of volunteering. Yet it didn’t take him long to develop a passion for the group’s mission to provide fun, recreational opportunities for those with disabilities.
“In about two or three days I was sold on what they were doing, because I could see the results, first hand,” said Johnstone, 74. “My first day I worked with an eight-year old Down syndrome patient and she had the most incredibly warm smile.
“Then I worked with someone from Grantham who’d had a stroke in utero and was really weak on the right side, but he loved to ski. We had hand puppets that we used for him to skate over to and whack as a way of working on his coordination. I remember telling Sondra how amazing it was to see little things like that.”
Featuring certified ski instructors who work on a 2-1 ratio with disabled skiers, the program prevents those with special needs from being excluded from the participation in after-school ski programs that their classmates enjoy.
“Instead of ‘no child left behind,’ we call it ‘no child left inside,’ ” Johnstone said. “We provide all the necessary equipment, at least two instructors (per athlete) and a lift ticket for the day.”
■ For more info on the New England Handicapped Sports Association and its programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-763-9158.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.