The Lakers Disabled Hockey program gives its players more than just a chance to play hockey. It gives them a chance to shine.
For physically challenged children or those with developmental disabilities, the program has become an essential way of nourishing a sense of pride and accomplishment in kids who would otherwise never get a chance to play such a sport.
The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, an early partner with the program, realized this early on.
Lakers disabled hockey players are pictured during the 2013 fundraiser.
"Seven years ago, we started playing (with the kids) for fun," said Jeff Hover, deputy sheriff of the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. "But when we realized (the program) was run purely on donations and that they were starting to run low on money, we decided to turn (these games) into a fundraiser."
On Saturday, the Lakers Disabled Hockey program, in conjunction with the Sheriff's Office, will hold its eighth annual fundraiser, from 2-4 p.m., at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena. Highlights will include an exhibition game by the Lakers Special Hockey team and a faceoff between the Lakers Sled Hockey team and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office.
"They always destroy us," Hover laughed. "We've never even come close to winning."
Perhaps this is why Rob Ray, former Buffalo Sabres enforcer will join the action, trying to help the Sheriff's Office attain their first win. Ray will be signing autographs after the game.
In addition to the games, a Chinese auction will be held. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the ice rink starting at noon Saturday.
A sheet of 25 tickets costs $10. Three sheets cost $25. Five sheets cost $40. Tickets can be purchased at the ice rink starting an noon Saturday.
Donations and auction items can be sent to Jeff Hover c/o Lakers Sled Hockey, at the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, 15 E. Chautauqua St. Mayville, NY 14757.
Sled hockey is a program that gives physically challenged individuals the ability to play hockey using specially designed sleds instead of traditional ice skates. Special hockey is designed for individuals with developmental disabilities and is played at their pace and skill level.
Ice time for the Lakers Disabled Hockey program can cost up to $8,000 to $10,000 yearly, according to the Sheriff's Office.
"Our main goal is to pay for their ice time for the rest of the season ... make some money and keep the program running," Hover said.