Kawartha Komets hockey program having life-changing impact on special needs children and their parents
By MIKE DAVIES Examiner Sports Director
Imagine going to school each day and none of the other children want to play with you at recess.
Imagine being on a sports team and your teammates don’t accept you socially.
Imagine your child has special needs so significant you can’t leave him with a babysitter or grandparent for a rare night out.
after experiencing years of loneliness, frustration, worry as either
the child or parent, you find a group which accepts you unconditionally
and identifies with all your struggles.
Meet the Kawartha Komets.
in the community may have heard of the special needs hockey team but
may not realize it’s much more than a sports team. The hockey is
secondary to the life-changing impact its had for children and parents.
Komets opened a new world for nine-year-old Kaeden Ball who previously
had no friends to interact with in school or out of school, says his
mother Lisa Mills.
“These are kids who are shunned by mainstream
society,” said Mills, whose son is ADHD, has oppositional defiance
disorder and mild intellectual and anger challenges. The players have a
variety of intellectual, emotional to physical challenges.
By the end of his first night with the Komets Kaeden had friends, boys he could call to talk to, he had teammates.
like a family,” Mills said. “We all care about each other. We're all
there to support each other through good times and bad.”
Kaeden’s 11-year-old sister Brianna, who volunteers with the team, says it’s helped her brother open up at school, too.
have seen a lot of difference since Kaeden joined the team,” she said.
“He started making more friends and talking to his friend Jonathan a
lot. It’s been a big change.”
David and Carol Fisher founded the Komets
after their son Matthew, 16, played one year of special needs hockey
with a team in Don Mills. Instead of travelling each weekend, they
created a local team. Their son Nathan, 15, also plays.
Sheryl Over’s adopted son Quinten, 15, who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, struggled in minor hockey.
tried to put him in the house league and on the ice there wasn't much
difference between him and the other kids, his skills are quite good,
but it fell apart in the change room. There was no opportunities for him
socially because he can't keep up with the other kids developmentally,”
“He can’t process the hitting quick enough so
bodychecking is very dangerous for him. He doesn’t see the hits coming
and we were afraid he was going to get hurt.”
The Komets changed that, instantly.
helped him to find peers who have common interests and abilities,” she
said. “We so often want our kids integrated and accepted but sometimes
they still feel isolated.”
It's also a better environment for the parents, Over said.
parents are really accepting, too, because all of our kids have
challenges. I don't feel like I have to make excuses for him while he's
playing which is really nice,” Over said.
Before the Komets, there were few things special needs children could enjoy together.
“This fills a void that was in the community,” she said.
Black calls the Komets a support group for parents, too. She and her
husband Jeff registered their son Liam, 8, with the Komets last season.
“We always thought ‘Nobody gets it. Nobody really understands what we go through as parents,’” said Lynn.
have so many challenges with each of our kids but you go to the arena
with the Komets and you’re just another parent. Everybody gets it. You
can talk about how rough your week has been and everyone gets it. It’s
totally a support group for the parents. As thankful as we are the team
is here for the kids, it’s also here for us.”
“You don’t see
judgment in the locker room if a child has a meltdown,” Carol Fisher
said. “The parents can share and trade resources and information and
support one another.”
It’s also a stress reliever for the children.
know there isn’t anyone there who is going to bully them or tease
them,” Fisher said. “They can relax. There is no pressure to perform.”
Lorne and Wanda Hoehn are thrilled with the benefits their son Will has experienced.
had something more to talk to kids about at school,” Lorne said. “He
wears his Komets hat to school every day. It’s a big source of pride for
him. It’s helped with his self-confidence which is really important for
kids who have these challenges.”
Liam became Will’s best friend and the highlight to their year was scoring their first goals within five minutes of each other.
“You couldn’t smack the smile off his face if you tried,” Lorne said.
Carol Fisher said a dedicated group of volunteers, about 10 a year – some with no connection to the players, coach the team.
“We have a wonderful group of very dedicated and committed volunteers,” said Carol. “They have also become like family.”
There were 12 Komets in year one, 22 in year two and 45 in year three including the first two girls.
“It just added another dimension to our team to have the girls and their families involved,” said David Fisher.
Next season they will ice three teams with players of similar ability placed together.
“To see this family grow has been so rewarding,” he said.
Kawartha Komets in need of sponsors to overcome financial challenges
Program aims to keep fees low for already burdened parents of special needs children
By MIKE DAVIES Examiner Sports Director
been an exhausting experience for David and Carol Fisher to pound the
pavement each year raising funds to keep the special needs hockey team
on the ice and in equipment. They’re about $2,600 short of covering
their 2011-12 costs.
Since starting the team three years ago, the
Fishers have tried to hold the line on registration costs for the now 45
David Fisher says their fees are half of normal
minor hockey registration in recognition that many families of special
needs children have extra expenses for alternative medicine, therapy or
schooling, or only one parent earning a paycheque as the other is home
caring for their child.
“We wanted to be inclusive,” Fisher said. “Anybody with any challenge can come and join the Komets.”
really hoping to find a corporate sponsor,” said Carol Fisher. “There
are so many wonderful service organizations in Peterborough who do such
great work and they fundraise like crazy.
“For us, we have to go
out to speak to 10 to 15 of these groups each year and that's a lot for
us to do and also run the team. If we had a corporate sponsor it would
really free us up to do other things. We would really like to grow this
team. We know there are people out there who want to play but we somehow
have to alleviate some of the work we do with the fundraising.”
She says $10,000 would solve their problems.
done that through places which have discounted equipment severely or
through donations or garage sales. We're almost out of equipment.”
Fisher thinks it would be a great opportunity for a local business to get exposure with their name on the Komets jersey.
“We are often in the news,” she said.
Anyone interested in sponsorship, donating equipment or coaching can contact the Fishers at 705-750-0655