Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey players aren’t just developing the athletic skills necessary to succeed on the ice, said its founder and program director, Debbie McQuilkin. They are also developing skills such as dependability, confidence and independence that are necessary to succeed in life.
Launched in 2006, Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey is a nonprofit organization that teaches young athletes with developmental disabilities to play hockey. Some children in the program have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and Down syndrome.
“Hockey is fun, but it’s also an unbelievable tool for us to teach these kids all the things they need to integrate into society,” said McQuilkin, who is a mother of four children.
About 50 young athletes now benefit from the Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey, a division of the nationally recognized American Special Hockey Association. They practice at Bridgeport’s Wonderland of Ice with a team of professional coaches and youth mentors who are 12 and older and provide assistance. McQuilkin’s sons Kieran, Austin and Colin have served as hockey mentors over the years.
“Kids naturally learn better from people who are around their own age,” said the New Canaan resident. “We have waiting lists of people who want to be mentors.”
And they have also had the chance to learn from their idols. For the past three years, Chris Drury, a former captain of the New York Rangers, has hosted a camp for members of Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey.
Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey has also provided its players with equipment and name-embroidered jerseys, which they have been known to wear proudly on and off the ice.
“They wear them to bed, and they wear them to school,” McQuilkin said. “It’s a big deal. I’ve seen kids talking and dressing themselves for the first time. It’s unbelievable.”
Members of Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey live in many area towns, including Darien, Fairfield, Stamford and Greenwich.
To learn more about the Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey, visit the website.