In its purest form, sport serves as one of the great equalizers of our time. It is the great unifier among athletes, regardless of their abilities. Everyone can enjoy and celebrate a creative pass, an unexpected goal, or a great goalie stop. And players at every level enjoy that bond that comes from sharing moments playing that sport.
This past weekend, hockey was in its purest form in the Al Clark Ice Rink at Culver Academies.
For the fourth straight year, Culver Academies hockey players hosted three teams of special needs players at The Eagle Classic Hockey Tournament. Four seniors – Molly Singewald, Katie Driscoll, Isabelle Johnson, and Luke Stapleton – organized the event with the assistance of coach Dan Davidge. Another 25 to 30 students donated their time to help with the event.
The Indy Twisters, MORAC Stars of Livonia, Mich., and the Black Swamp Ice Frogs from Bowling Green, Ohio, were all anticipating the trip back to Culver, Singewald said. “They were really excited. They expect to come back every year.”
That enthusiasm was obvious. Players relished their time on the ice. Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters filled the stands. They even brought their own air horns to celebrate goals. Memories were being captured with cameras and cell phones. One Ice Frogs father used Facebook Live to keep parents and grandparents back home in touch. “They were really enjoying it,” he said.
You can’t imagine how much this means to the kids. The (Culver) kids are just so great with them.
Both days, parents stopped the Culver students and staff to say how much they appreciated the opportunity. “You can’t imagine how much this means to the kids,” one Indy Twisters father said. “The (Culver) kids are just so great with them. You just don’t know how much this weekend means to us.”
Singewald, who worked at last year’s event, said it was nice to see all the familiar faces. “It’s cool to see the same families and kids.” Especially, Harry from the Ice Frogs. He was easily the smallest “player” in last year’s tournament.
He was still one of the smallest, if not the smallest player, on the ice this weekend, but Singewald immediately picked up on a big difference.
“Did you notice he’s not using his walker this year?” she said. She was right. Harry used a custom plastic walker to navigate around the rink last year. This weekend, he was carrying his stick and skating on his own. “That’s really nice to see,” she added.
Work on this year’s event started almost immediately after last year’s tournament finished, Singewald said. They talked with team representatives to see how they could improve on last year. Added events this weekend were a “Skate with the Eagles” session on Saturday and a skills competition on Sunday.
More underclassmen were also involved this year, Singewald explained, which will allow for great continuity. It also meant more people were in the rink to cheer for the players during the games. And each player had an assigned locker with a personalized poster thanks to the Living, Learning, and Leading classes, Davidge said. After the weekend, the players could take the posters home.
How many hours went into the planning and execution? “Oh man,” Singewald laughed. “I don’t even know.”
And, now, work will begin on next year’s tournament. Singewald said a group of juniors has already volunteered to organize and run the event.