The Florida Panthers Foundation's Community Champions Grant Program allows charitable organizations throughout South Florida to request financial support for programs and initiatives that are benefiting our community. Here are their stories.
The Florida Panthers support hockey in each and every one of its unique forms.
With the help of Endless Possibilities for the Disabled, the Panthers hosted a Sled Hockey Clinic at BB&T Center on Feb. 10, inviting former Community Champions, guests from local rinks and veterans from Southern Command to try sled hockey and learn about the sport.
Endless Possibilities, which was recognized as a Community Champion and received a $25,000 donation from the Florida Panthers Foundation on Dec. 30, is a non-profit organization that provides sports and recreation programs for physically disabled individuals.
As a Community Champion, Endless Possibilities used their grant to fund the Palm Beach Tiger Sharks, a local sled hockey program. This donation covered everything from paying for ice time for practices and games to helping host clinics in order to teach sled hockey to new members.
At the Panthers' sled hockey clinic, members of the Tiger Sharks served as instructors.
"We were very excited to be able to have the opportunity to give Endless Possibilities for the Disabled a Community Champions Grant," Panthers Foundation Coordinator Danielle Jacobs said. "The Tiger Sharks are a great organization in the community that gives people who might not have the ability to play regular hockey a chance to learn and to get on the ice.
"We had a clinic with the Tiger Sharks back in February and had a lot of people turn out. It was a great, great way to see what the organization does as a whole and to see some smiles on the faces of the people that were able to participate."
The Tiger Sharks were founded and are co-managed by Dan Robbins, who became disabled after a motorcycle accident. After the amputation of his legs, Robbins credits sled hockey for helping him regain his independence and reignite his strong passion for sports.
"I didn't think they were real sports until I got involved in sled hockey," Robbins said of disabled athletics. "I realized that it was hard. I've seen people get on the ice, join the team and build relationships. They really do forget about their disability and start thinking about community."
Sled hockey (also known as sledge hockey) is played by a wide range of players with a variety of mobility limitations: amputees, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, along with anyone who has a permanent disability. It follows most of the typical rules of ice hockey with the exception some of the equipment, which includes specially designed sleds and two separate sticks for mobility.
With the support of the NHL, the popularity and understanding of sled hockey continues to grow.
"I wouldn't be where I am today without sled hockey," said Daniella Robbins, a co-manager and forward for the Tiger Sharks. "With the help from the Panthers we've been able to host this clinic and give a chance to these people that have never ever skated."
The Panthers plan to continuing using their platform to promote the benefits of sled hockey.