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Sled Donation Program: STARskaters

08/03/2015, 4:30pm MDT

Giving people with physical disabilities the opportunity to learn to love the sport of hockey

The sport of sled hockey gives people with physical disabilities the opportunity to learn to love the sport of hockey. In the fall of 2012, the STARskaters program out of Houston received a grant of five sleds to help introduce and recruit new players to their team.

“In the early stages, it’s always the ‘chicken or the egg’ problem,” said Jim O’Neill, founder of STARskaters. “We needed to buy ice time, but we needed to buy sleds. We couldn’t do both. This grant was kind of the kickstarter of positive momentum for our program.”

One player who got his start with the STARskaters program is 19-year-old Kyle Huckaby, a sophomore at the University of Texas, Arlington. Huckaby, a strong athlete who also plays wheelchair basketball, embodies the success of the sled donation program made possible by The USA Hockey Foundation donors. He got his start with the team three years ago, and worked his way from playing at the local level, to playing internationally.

Because Huckaby was born with spina bifida, he has a difficult time controlling his legs, and therefore can’t walk for long periods of time. “Sled hockey put me in a situation where everyone was the same. It has given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise,” said Huckaby, who was recently named as a goaltender on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

Very appreciative of everything that has been made possible through the sport, he is also excited to see little kids coming out and watching them play. And as O’Neill points out, the new interest and growth of the sport would not be possible without the sleds The USA Hockey Foundation’s donors helped fund.

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