May 16, 2003
Hospital's hockey team helps Callaway High School students learn new skills on the ice
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—It may have been Leon Kennedy’s first time on the ice, but he wasted no time learning what that short hockey stick was for.
“I think it’s fun. I love going on the ice and I love hitting the puck,” the 16-year old Callaway High School student said.
That pretty much cut to the heart of the Thursday morning outing for students with disabilities from Callaway High School. The five students teamed up with Ginny Boydston, recreational therapy director for Methodist Rehabilitation Center and members of the hospital’s sled hockey team, to try their hand at the sport.
The project grew out of a grant the Jackson hospital received in October from Project Start to form a hockey team for disabled athletes. Disabled hockey players sit on lightweight metal sleds and use hockey sticks with picks attached to skate around the ice. The rules are the same as in any other ice hockey game.
As Boydston got into the program with her athletes, all former or current Methodist patients, she realized the program could offer opportunities for other people with disabilities. She called the district office of the Jackson Public Schools and they connected her with exceptional education teacher Pauline Brown.
“I teach a community-based program. We teach the kids job skills and independent living. We get out and go to the mall, the grocery store,” Brown said. “This program is a great experience for them. The more they get out in the community the more people will accept them.”
Boydston had three separate meetings to prepare the students for their day on the ice. She started by showing them a video of a sled hockey game, then she came out and measured them for the equipment and the final visit focused on safety and included a visit from Sammy Safety, the hospital’s injury prevention mascot.
“They were having a great time, but they were definitely learning new skills. I asked one of them if they were cold and wanted to get off the ice, but she said no, very emphatically,” Boydston said.
The students were paired with mentors, many of them members of the Methodist team, and assisted by other volunteers during their time on the ice at The Park in Flowood. Sheila Burnham of Madison is a paraplegic and a member of the Methodist team. She was also Kennedy’s mentor.
“This opens new doors for them and shows them that they can get out there and do things,” Burnham said. “I’m a former school teacher, so it’s especially exciting for me to see them catch on and really make the most out of it.”
Jan Harkins, Kennedy for JPS, said they hope to continue the program next year.
“The kids have been so excited. It opens them up to an experience they never would have had otherwise,” Harkins said.
For more information:
Hospital hockey helps high schoolers learn | Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame
New skills hockey's goal | The Clarion-Ledger