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Equal Ice Time

Double Bear founds a hockey team for children with cognitive, intellectual, and physical disabilities

For parents of children with special needs, going to the grocery store, attending a birthday party, or even going to the bathroom can be complicated tasks.

“I have a special needs child and it can be very isolating. People who don’t have children with special needs sometimes take it for granted,” said Tara Thompson, ’16, G’22.

Knowing first-hand how difficult things can be, she set out to create a space that not only serves children with special needs, but also provides a supportive community for parents.

After months of organizing, this spring she officially launched the South Shore Ice Dragons, a Pembroke-based nonprofit that invites children with cognitive, intellectual, and physical disabilities to play on a traditional hockey team.

The team is affiliated with the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA).

Getting on the ice is fun and helps build confidence for the kids, Thompson said, but even more important it provides parents with an accepting space.

“Having a place where you can be around other families with kids who have similar disabilities, a place where you can relax, where you feel like you belong. It’s like having a second family,” she said.

Thompson has worked at Bridgewater State University for nearly 19 years and currently serves in Procurement Services as an assistant director. Bridgewater is also where she earned both her undergraduate degree in communications and master’s in educational leadership. Thompson said it was participating in BSU’s Educational Leadership program that gave her the push to get more involved and create inclusive opportunities.

When she isn’t working, Thompson takes care of her own five children, two of whom play on the South Shore Ice Dragons team.

“I’ve been taking care of kids with special needs for 20 years and decided that the next step for me was to create this hockey team,” she said.

Through her efforts, Thompson was able to secure $20,000 in funding from The Citi Team, a clothing company.

The sponsorship allowed her to purchase ice time for the team, uniforms and adaptive equipment.

As she looks ahead, she hopes to secure more donations of either funding or equipment.

“We are always looking for volunteers, too,” Thompson said.

The ultimate goal in creating these opportunities for children with special needs and their families is to increase awareness, she said.

“These kids are capable of so much and because of their disability, that’s often the only thing people see,” Thompson said. “What people don’t see is that they can rise to the occasion and do phenomenal things.”

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