The Power of Community

Oct 2, 2023 | News

“HEROS has brought Jack into a community.”

A sign of a great hallmark for a program is its ability to foster connections and bring people together. Beyond the sticks and pucks and the weekly weekend practices, SuperHEROS carves out a space for players to discover their abilities and have fun, all with a supportive community rallying behind them.

Trent, his son Jack, and the rest of their family have found such a space at the Regina SuperHEROS program .

In early March of this year, Trent accompanied Jack to the Canadian Adapted Hockey Association’s Annual Friendship Tournament which took place in Ottawa and was the first time a SuperHEROS team has ever taken part in such an event.

“It was so exciting to see him out there because you never really know, especially kids with disabilities, you never really know what they’re capable of until they actually get put in that position,” said Trent.

“I really thought that he would be disinterested in it, and he got out there with a bunch of kids that he didn’t know, he’d never met before and he was just in heaven,” said Trent. “Jack was skating around waving to me from the ice and putting his hands in the air when they scored and all the things like that.”

As a volunteer for the Regina SuperHEROS program, Trent was an advocate for SuperHEROS even before the chapter launched in Regina in 2019. Prior to the launch of SuperHEROS, Trent and his family were involved in the Outdoor Hockey League in Regina so that Jack could have a space to play.

“The Outdoor Hockey League is unique to Regina and run mostly for kids who don’t have the financial support to be in hockey,” said Trent. “We were able to provide Jack with the gear. We just didn’t have the place for him to play.”

It was on Boxing Day of the first season of the SuperHEROS Calgary chapter that Trent first became aware of the SuperHEROS program.

“There was an article in the Globe and Mail where Kevin [Hodgson] was interviewed about this new program that had started in Calgary,” said Trent. “By the time I was done reading the story I was in tears because that was what our family dreamed of for Jack to be part of.”

“I was already involved in the Outdoor Hockey League when Jack was out with them. I was helping our other son Ben with his minor hockey team and then I was at the time, a board member of Special Olympics Saskatchewan, so I just said to Kevin, you know, ‘if and when you ever decide to come to Regina, call me and I’ll help you get it going.’ Kevin got back to me immediately and he said, ‘Regina’s on our road map.’ “

Within a year’s time in the fall, Regina was officially the next stop on the SuperHEROS journey.

The SuperHEROS program was created in 2018 and gives youth who face physical and cognitive barriers with an opportunity to play hockey, while connecting with peers and mentors. For SuperHEROS like Jack, who live with autism, the program provides unique accommodations that traditionally structured hockey programming doesn’t necessarily have.

Now with SuperHEROS, Jack, Ben as well as their younger sister, Rosie have even more to connect with, especially in a family that loves hockey and so many other sports. Oftentimes the whole family will come out to a SuperHEROS practice and volunteer their time both on and off the ice. As Trent puts it, it’s really “a family affair”.

On SuperHEROS Saturdays, the family goes into “support Jack mode” whether it’s making sure his hockey bag is properly packed, what snacks to bring, and even figuring out who’s going to help out during practice that day.

“In a family where three kids are in all kinds of programming, Jack’s also in Special Olympics Swimming and figure skating and other things,” said Trent, “most days we’re going in so many different directions. But on Saturday mornings when it’s time for SuperHEROS, it just goes to like 100% focus on Jack, you know, so we ramp up for that every weekend.”

An unexpected (but incredible nonetheless) biproduct of each SuperHEROS program was the positive impact the programming had on entire families and how invested each member of the family became. As Trent explained, “Really, for us it comes down to what will lift Jack, lifts our family.”

Each week, we see SuperHEROS programs prove just how important being included and having teammates to lean on can be, not just for the players, but for their families and loved ones as well. This has helped HEROS as an organization spark an even greater conversation surrounding the limitations that have been placed on the game of hockey – and in many cases, sport as a whole. Physical, cognitive, financial, and social barriers alike should not limit a young person, or their families, from accessing crucial community support and the all-important sense of belonging that sport provides.

“I think that’s something that probably doesn’t get talked about enough in families that have one or more members who live with a disability,” Trent said, “Sometimes they see that as a limitation, and sometimes it is a limitation for them, and we’ve been fortunate enough in our lives to not have it limit us in a in a massive way. But certainly, there were times that we felt like maybe we didn’t belong. And now we don’t feel that way, and we feel comfortable walking into the Regina Pats games with Jack wearing his headphones for the noise and not worrying about what other people think.”

“Because of SuperHEROS in Regina and the way that it’s run and the times that we skate,” Trent explained, “there’s a lot of people around town that now know Jack as a SuperHERO, and they appreciate and respect him as an athlete in a way that they probably didn’t before. Knowing that there’s a lot of people that see Jack and they’re like, ‘hey, that’s the kid that’s in SuperHEROS and that’s the family that’s involved in it’ and not wondering but just understanding.”

In playing an active role within SuperHEROS, not only for their son but the entire SuperHEROS Regina team, one of the many great outcomes for Trent and his family has been getting together and connecting with other SuperHEROS families.

“It’s given us those connections with other people,” said Trent. “It’s given us an opportunity to discuss everything from making sure our kids eat properly, to what do we do when our kids are going to high school, how do we navigate that you know? Because there isn’t a playbook. There’re resources, but there’s no playbook and at least we have this common connection that would allow us to be connected with all these other these other people and learn that there’s more people out there like us.”

That sense of community and belonging is at the core of what HEROS strives for – for both SuperHEROS and HEROS programs alike. While each chapter is as unique as the players on the ice, what remains the same is each program’s capacity to show that, regardless of the barriers they face, our players can accomplish anything when they’re given a team to lean on and grow with.

“I think what it did was it shone a light on the fact that that despite all the differences, all our kids are athletes.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Trent. HEROS is grateful to have you, Jack, and the entire SuperHEROS Regina community cheering on and investing in the future of all our players. Thank you!