Over a year ago the Calgary Super HEROS program began providing youth with cognitive and physical challenges the chance to play hockey and we feel so lucky to have met truly amazing players and families in that time. Kiley, a 16 year old who lives with down syndrome and hearing impairment, is one of our Super HEROS and she doesn’t let her challenges stand in her way from playing the sport she loves.
Kiley grew up watching her brother Michael play hockey, supporting him by carrying his hockey stick and water bottle to his practices and watching him play from behind the glass. Until the creation of Super HEROS, Kiley was left on the sidelines. According to Kevin Hodgson, HEROS President, “when her family asked if Super HEROS could meet Kiley’s needs we just said yes. That sense of belonging and inclusion – those things are important.” Her brother Michael explains that now, “things have come full circle and I’m the one cheering her on”.
It’s the safe and inclusive environment that Super HEROS creates that makes playing hockey possible for youth with cognitive and physical challenges. “What this program does so wonderfully is not focus on disabilities, it focuses on possibilities,” describes Kiley’s Mom Kimi. “Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is when you want to do something and you can see it, touch it, smell it but it’s not available to you, and then finding out you can do it – it’s a huge moment for these kids,” explained HEROS president Kevin Hodgson. The reality that these boys and girls now have access to the game of hockey is not lost on the families of the players, “Kiley playing hockey never even occurred to me. Somewhere, somebody had this idea and found people that they could inspire with this idea, it’s just incredible,” describes Kiley’s Dad Brian.
Kiley was eager to hit the ice the second she got her equipment, ”we told her she was going to get to play hockey but I don’t think it really registered until the day she got kitted out in her gear” explains Kimi. She’s one of the first kids coming in the doors with a beaming smile on her face every session, she has her routine and she’s excited to get on the ice.
HEROS operates by a simple yet powerful motto: Hockey is for everyone. It’s repeated in our programs and by our volunteers consistently and we live by those words. As Kevin explains, “Hockey is for everyone is only a tagline if you don’t do something about it. This is the opportunity to get a little bit closer to making sure hockey is for everyone.”