Sports Magazine

Shining STARs: Skating and Sled Hockey in Houston

By Jimmydonuts
“You’re a shining star, no matter who you are.”
-Earth, Wind & Fire
Funk music may not have spurred STARskaters founder Jim O’Neill to form his non-profit organization, which assists disadvantaged children and adults, but Earth, Wind & Fire’s hit song could be the unofficial theme song for those who volunteer time and money and who participate in Skating for Therapy And Recreation.
O’Neill’s inspiration came not from Motown but rather from the City of Light, via an HBO show hosted by Bob Costas. The episode featuring Buffalo’s Skating Athletes Bold At Heart (SABAH) triggered the one-time Wisconsin and Texas transplant to take action.
“I’ve been skating all my life,” O’Neil says, “reffed over 2,500 hockey games. Thousands of contacts. When I watched that piece, I though we really need something like this in Houston.”
So in 2006, O’Neill hatched a plan to form his organization, and two years later, the first STARskaters event launched. Now, as the association’s Web site says, “The program is open to anyone five years of age or older who would normally be unable to enjoy an on-ice skating experience due to their disability.”
These shining stars—some of them blind, autistic, or paralyzed—learn safety first. They advance from tying their skates and selecting proper head gear to participating in a variety of programs and activities, such as figure skating and wheelchair hockey.
Four years after the first event, sled hockey (known as sledge hockey outside the United States) is now aligned with the organization’s mission.
O’Neill attributes the genesis and growth of the sled hockey program to one of those thousands of contacts he mentioned. “A buddy of mine is a regional guy with USA Hockey, and he asked about implementing sled hockey in Houston.” He adds, “We went from zero sleds a year ago to twenty-one sleds…a rear end in every sled.”
One of those fannies belongs to a Joseph Montemayor. No legs and missing most of one arm—technically a triple amputee—Montemayor is a regular at the Saturday morning sessions at the Memorial City Mall rink. O’Neill says the player’s progress has been remarkable.
Another luminary in the STARskaters constellation is a man named Ramiro, who O’Neill says loves sled hockey so much he’s never late. Make that rarely. O’Neill recalls that recently, Ramiro had been tardy five or ten minutes. When O’Neill asked why, he says Ramiro told him, “'Well, I did thirty miles (on a bike) this morning.’”
Joseph, Ramiro, and the increasing number of other sled hockey players benefit from volunteers’ dedication. O’Neill says, “Anybody involved in hockey knows hockey players have big hearts. They’ll do anything.”
Among them are kids from local hockey programs. “Most times, you can’t get these kids out of bed.” Yet entire teams rise early and shine on Saturday mornings.
Countless teenagers and adults, including gold-medal winners from the US Paralympics Sled Hockey team—Taylor Lipsett, Lonnie Hannah, James Dunham, and Pat Sapp—have contributed to the success of O’Neill’s organization.
“More precious than gold,” says O’Neill “is ice time.” Because only a handful of rinks are available in Houston, STARskaters depends upon the generosity of rink managers like Carl Sasyn, an American Hockey League linesman and general manager of Rink Management Services Corporation. The company operates rinks in many states, including Texas, New York, and Wisconsin.
“No way we’d have growth in the past year,” says O’Neill, because without the consistent donation of ice time, players won’t improve.
O’Neill thanks his lucky stars for what hockey has given him: the friends and experiences that he believes all skaters, regardless of ability, should have available to them. He's also grateful for all the volunteers, donations, and participants who've contributed to the success of STARskaters.
O'Neill encourages embryonic stars to evolve, to initiate similar programs in their communities. “It’s time well spent, a great way to start your weekend, spreading the joy of skating and hockey.” There are lots of ways to volunteer, he adds. “Everybody has something to give.”
So channel your inner galactic halo from here on Earth. Spur that solar wind, and fire that stellar pulsar for all to see.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Harry and Meghan Announce That They Are Expecting Their First Child

    Harry Meghan Announce That They Expecting Their First Child

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex while arriving in Australia for their first official overseas tour have released some special news. They are having a baby. The... Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Solarisastro
    BODY, MIND, SPIRIT, SPIRITUALITY
  • Concert Review: Some Roads Lead to Rome

    Concert Review: Some Roads Lead Rome

    Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings old-style Berlioz to Carnegie Hall. by Paul J. Pelkonen Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Photo courtesy Carnegie Hall. Historically... Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Cali Mavericks DoubleWood Whiskey Review

    Cali Mavericks DoubleWood Whiskey Review

    A craft bourbon made in California, through contract distillation, and finished in toasted French Oak; Cali Mavericks DoubleWood Whiskey is the latest thing to... Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Josh Peters
    DRINK
  • The Definitive Guide to Surviving Shopping at DMart

    It is a known fact that shopping at a DMart store can be a life-threatening experience. Which is why a guide like this is absolutely essential. Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Tejas Nair
  • Halloweens from Our Youth & Hellish Costumes

    Halloweens from Youth Hellish Costumes

    Let’s start with the obvious here. You could not breathe in these masks back in the 70s. You felt like you were being suffocated or worse. Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Midlifemargaritas
    LIFESTYLE
  • North American P-51D Mustang

    North American P-51D Mustang

    @ Camarillo Municipal Airport, CA August 2017 This P-51 Mustang “Bunny”, from the Palm Springs Air Museum, taxies by for takeoff at the Wings Over Camarillo... Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Htam
    PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIETY
  • ✔638. Westleigh Park

    ✔638. Westleigh Park

    Havant Waterlooville 0-1 GatesheadNational League Saturday 13th October 2018 Havant is a town in the south east corner of Hampshire, situated in between... Read more

    The 15 October 2018 by   Smidrophenia
    SOCCER, SPORTS

Magazine