Friday, February 8, 2013

Caps / Dreams For Kids 2/8/13

As many of you may know, my younger son Zachary has some developmental issues. He has a lot of difficulty with motor control, so even though he's almost 5, he's still learning how to walk and isn't talking yet. While he is enrolled in an amazing preschool program and has many interests, he hasn't ever been able to participate in sports like his older brother. He has spent many a Saturday watching his brother play soccer, ride his bike, or run around with his friends. And because we are huge hockey fans, he has spent lots of time at the ice rink, seeing other kids skate and, of course, watching the Caps practice.

So we were thrilled to learn about the organization Dreams for Kids DC, which puts on a program called Extreme Recess for kids with special needs. It enables them to participate in sports that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to try. Today's event, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, enabled Zachary to take to the ice on a special sled, something I never thought I'd see him do.

Our day started at 11 a.m. when we arrived at the rink and met our volunteers Kira and Jeff, who stayed with us the entire time we were there and were just so great with Zachary. After we checked in, we watched the Caps practice from the bleachers. We live close to Kettler, and are able to attend practices frequently, so much that Zachary doesn't think it's a big deal. He knew why we were there and was getting impatient waiting for his turn to get on the ice.

After practice was over, we had some lunch and watched the Zamboni before we collected our equipment and got ready to get on the ice.

As soon as we got Zachary buckled into the sled, I knew he was going to love it. We were on the ice for about an hour and I bet he would have stayed out there the rest of the afternoon if we let him.

After a few laps around the ice, we got to meet our first Caps player: new defenseman #36 Tomas Kundratek, who was called up from Hershey a a few weeks ago. He was so great with Zachary. He gave him a few stuffed animals to play with and Zachary really warmed up to him.

A little while later, we met goalie #70 Braden Holtby. We have followed his career since he was playing for the Hershey Bears, and he couldn't have been nicer. He took Zachary for a spin around the ice and over to meet Slapshot, which I think was the highlight of Zachary's day. I got really emotional seeing how much fun they were having.

Finally, we met forward #25 Jason Chimera. He was super friendly and I could tell Zachary liked him too. I was so impressed that the players really got down on his level and interacted with him. I think sometimes people don't know how to act when they are around a child with special needs, but all of the people we met today were just so amazing with Zachary.

I really can't thank both the Washington Capitals and the Dreams for Kids organization enough. We had an amazing time, and Zachary has already looked at the photos and videos many, many times. It will be a memory he will treasure forever, and we can't wait to participate again next year!

If you'd like to see more of my photos from the day, please go to my Google album.

Here's a roundup of other coverage of the event:
  • Here's a beautiful video created by The Blue Wave media company for Dreams for Kids. Zachary and I are featured at about the 2:10 mark.
  • A wonderful write-up about Zachary by my favorite Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. Thanks guys!
  • Caps online photo gallery, with some great photos of Zachary as well as the group photo at the end.
  • Dreams For Kids DC's Flickr set from the day, with one great shot of Zachary in the middle of the set.
  • Great blog post on HockeyShopped by another parent who attended with her son.
  • A blog post about the day by Capitals Outsider. It has a couple great photos of Zachary too.
  • A quick story by District Sports Page, with a great photo of Zachary and Holtby.
  • A short video that the Caps made about the event. I didn't spot Zachary in there, though.
  • A video from the local Fox5 news. You can see Zachary in the middle of the group photo at about 1:20 and that's my back in the Ward jersey at the end of the video.
All photos are copyrighted by me and may only be used with permission. Thanks for reading.

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