The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver caused an increase in popular sports such as hockey and figure skating. But the emergence of other activities can be attributed to the Olympics and the Paralympic Games as well. Sledge hockey, once a relatively unknown sport, is coming to the forefront in the Bay Area thanks to an Olympic hero.
Kristi Yamaguchi, a figure skating icon, knows first-hand the impact sports can have on the lives on children. The 1992 Gold Medal winner spearheaded the creation of the “Always Dream Foundation,” a non-profit organization that works with local charities to “inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children.”
On Wednesday, May 26, the Always Dream Foundation provided a grant of $7,000 to the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, intended to cover the cost of 10 sets of sleds and sledge hockey related equipment for the developing program at Oakland Ice Center. The grant was awarded with a check presentation ceremony at Oakland Ice Center Operated by Sharks Ice.
Attending the presentation ceremony were be: Kristi Yamaguchi, Lori Yamaguchi and Jim Adler, representing Always Dream Foundation, Trooper Johnson and Kaia Burkett with the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (also known as BORP), and representatives of the City of Oakland, including Councilmember Nancy Nadel and the Vice Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Richard Cowan.
BORP is a local organization aimed at providing training and recreational options for children and adults with physical disabilities. With more than 30 years of experience, BORP, along with the Always Dream Foundation, will join forces to bring sledge hockey to disabled children living in the Bay Area.
“The Always Dream Foundation is proud to be able to support this exciting and innovative program,” said Kristi Yamaguchi. “BORP’s commitment to sports and recreation as a pathway to achievement for young people with disabilities is the perfect expression of my personal belief in the power of athletics to transform lives.”
The sleds and sledge equipment will be used as part of a new sledge hockey developmental skills program at the Oakland Ice Center. The program will eventually develop into a sledge hockey league, expected to begin in late May. Participation will begin with children who register through the BORP.
"One of our primary goals at the Oakland Ice Center has been to ensure that hockey and ice sports are available to everyone in our community,” said Oakland Ice Center General Manager Melissa Fitzgerald. “Always Dream's generous donation to BORP has opened the doors to an entirely new group of ice hockey players and ice enthusiasts who have never been able to participate in programs at our facility before. We deeply appreciate the commitment of Kristi Yamaguchi and Always Dream Foundation to ensuring that hockey truly is for everyone."
Sledge hockey was invented in the early 1960’s in Sweden and has quickly gained popularity through the Paralympics. Team USA recently took the Gold Medal at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, becoming the first country to win two Gold Medals in the sport’s history.