In partnership with the Canucks Autism Network (CAN), the Valley West Hawks are hosting the Surrey Stingrays autistic minor hockey team at their game on Sunday, December 11, 2017 at 3:30pm.
The Surrey Stingrays will cheer on the Hawks from the stands as they face off against the South Island Royals at the Langley Events Centre.
The Hawks are more than familiar with Autism; General Manager Rob Evers and Head Coach Jessie Leung, both have an autistic nephew and Assistant Coach Kyle Spencer has a son with autism.
"Autism is something that holds a special place in our hearts for our Hawks staff. We all have someone in our immediate families that is affected by it," said Evers. "It is super important for us to help make people with autistic children aware that there are opportunities for their kids to participate in many sports, such as hockey, that maybe they never thought would be an option for their children. Jessie and I had the chance to work with CAN at our Team BC Provincial Camp with our players and it was the most memorable and rewarding thing we participated in that week."
The team will be raising fund for autism awareness through a donation box as well as a raffle of many great prizes including a Vancouver Giants team autographed jersey.
The Surrey Stingrays were established in 2014 and are one (1) of two (2) adapted hockey teams supported by CAN. The CAN hockey program is a unique 20-week program in which participants form a team and work with trained coaches and volunteers to learn hockey skills at weekly practices. The season wraps up in the spring with a tournament that brings together eight (8) adapted hockey teams from across the province.
Both CAN teams, the Surrey Stingrays and Vancouver Orcas, participated in their first hockey tournament on April 2, 2016, which is recognized globally as World Autism Awareness Day, in Surrey. The full-day tournament not only had a lasting impact on the participants, but on the families as a whole.
"I saw other parents cheering, but their cheers were more than just noise; they were celebrating the reality of their dream and their child's journey," said one CAN parent. "The were celebrating all of the doubts that were proven wrong, all of the hours of therapy and hard work. I saw looks from parent to parent that said a thousand words, but were fully understood."
The Stingrays and Orcas are now training for the annual hockey tournament set for spring 2017 in Penticton.
The CAN hockey program is made possible thanks to the generosity of donors and sponsors and the dedication and fundraising efforts of the two (2) teams. The program fosters confidence, skill building and friendships, not just between team members, but between the hockey parents as well.
"The coaches and volunteers are amazing," said Heather Bolecz, a parent of one of the Stingrays. "The level of awareness, acceptance and support they provide our kids is unmatched by any other recreation program we have participated in. Our son has had the opportunity to play hockey and work together as a team, and we have all had the opportunity to create lasting friendships. This would not have been possible without the great work of CAN!"
To learn more about CAN and the CAN hockey program, please visit canucksautism.ca.