The team dreams of one-day competing in the Paralympics.
Formed in 2007, the USA Women’s Sled Hockey roster features para-athletes from across the country and of all ages. Sled hockey is similar to any other hockey game, but with one major difference: the players are seated on custom metal sleds and propel themselves forward with the use of two short hockey sticks with metal grips on the tips of the handles. While women are eligible to play on the USA Paralympic Men’s Sled Hockey Team, women’s sled hockey is not yet an official Paralympic sport.
While the USA Men’s Sled Hockey Team has multiple sponsors, the women’s team has far less funding. Members are required to handle the cost of travel and equipment on their own. After hearing about the women’s plight, the students volunteered to create the website [uswomensledgehockey.org] in an effort to encourage donations.
Students involved in the project are [from Howell Central] Chloe Bockhorst, Connor Crites, Belle Herrera, Zach Jones, Gracie Kruep, Lanie Sanders and Ethan Wagman; [from Howell North] Alyssa Barber, Samantha Cary, Emily Hood, Jordan Milewczik and Fabian Schwuchow.
The students did their research, attended four games, interviewed the players and got to know the athletes on a more personal level. “We all came together to tell this amazing story,” said Zach Jones from Howell Central. “It was awesome to be able to tell that story and be able to help them in their journey of hopefully one day becoming an official Paralympic sport.”
During the interviews, people on both sides of the camera were in tears. “Just listening to their stories, they were amazing. All of these women had a story, and all of them were incredible,” said Gracie Kruep from Howell Central. The team ranges in age from 14 to 35. Some were born with degenerative diseases and some have lost limbs during active service in the armed forces.
“It’s definitely a weekend I won’t forget for a long time, both for the opportunity, but also to meet some amazing athletes, and see our students give the best of themselves to a group who absolutely needed help to make their team and cause more visible,” said Matthew Schott, Howell Central publications adviser.
“I think the great thing about this project was that the students got to meet some incredibly talented athletes and individuals whose paths they might never have crossed,” said Aaron Manfull, Howell North director of student media. “They got to work closely with high school journalists from other schools, and they enjoyed getting to know them.”
These students and their new friends embody the Olympic spirit – “mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” With help from the Francis Howell students listed below, the website will increase the visibility of the USA Women’s Sled Hockey Team, and hopefully, help them achieve their dream of one day competing in the Paralympics.