"We started the program to help develop skill sets that some of your kids don't have, partly with socialization and responsibility," Rochester Special Hockey president Tom Simmons said. "We are trying to give them enhancements in their life, things that their siblings and friends already experience. We use the game of hockey as that tool or that method."
The organization has increased its participation from 12 to 42 players and its members range from three to forty five years old. For these players, being a part of the Ice Cats is about more than stats in a box score.
"There is no focus on score, no focus on winning and losing," Simmons said. "The focus is on what we can develop in them for self-esteem and how we can get them to be socially responsible."
Parents like Janet Gaupp, whose son plays on the team, see their children maturing.
"His attitude and his independence has changed," Gaupp said. "We used to do rollerskating at school and for two years I held his hand every month and now that he is skating with the Ice Cats he is like you can sit here mom."
Independence is a common theme of appreciation amongst parents whose children are a part of the Ice Cats. They say it is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
"He is able to get out there and be independent on the ice," parent Heather Santiago said. "There are no therapists or anyone showing him what to do. The coaches obviously coach him, but he is able to get out there and do it on his own."
The bond that is created goes beyond the walls of the ice and lasts forever.
"I see kids out everyday in life and the friendships that have been created and what is there is so wonderful," Simmons said.
To learn more about the Ice Cats and how to get involved click here.
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