For years, I had given some thought about becoming a volunteer with the Special Needs Community on my retirement. That is exactly what I did, joined full time by my wife Leslie, and daughter Kelsey.
Over the years, we have had the opportunity to coach and mentor 150 of some of the most amazing people and athletes you could hope to meet. We learned quickly that the athletes were the real teachers in this journey.
As we approach our 10th season of hockey, it will for certain be challenging and unique. Safety is always our priority.
We are looking forward to our return to the ice this fall, with our two hours of scheduled ice each Saturday, at the newly renovated Blackburn Hamlet Arena.
Quality over quantity is the formula to success and personal achievements our roster of players over the years have been exposed to, both on and off the ice. Our success was recognized in 2018, by the City of Ottawa, with the Celebration of People Award, acknowledging our programs efforts as one of excellence.
The Stars have been blessed to have many trusting and supportive community partners, who continue to believe and trust in our program efforts. Because of them, our player’s look and feel like their NHL idols. We are 100% Not for Profit, all volunteer based as defined. Without the community partnership, we would just be another hockey team. They are champions.
The Ottawa Special Hockey Stars is much more than just hockey. It is about courage, self-esteem, confidence, but most importantly the fun and friendships that are being formed by all of us. The OSHS is all about growth and inclusion, integrity, honesty and respect, a template we encourage everyone to follow.
If there is anything I want you to remember in my message, it is this. The families and their kids, who have trusted our efforts over the years in this magical ride, are entirely responsible for its success in every way. OSHS is not about me, or the wonderful volunteers associated to the program, it is “Always and only about the Kids.’ They deserve all the credit. We as volunteers show up to the rink on Saturdays, because they all do. As the head coach, I am just the guy with a whistle.
The roster of amazing players we have coached over the years, have changed all our lives as well. Every volunteer, without hesitation would confirm this fact. We collectively, thank all of you for allowing us to be a part of this journey.
It is always a beautiful time for hockey. The memories over the years will always be cherished. Puck drop is just around the corner.
Jamie started playing hockey on Jeff Kelly’s team 8 years ago. He had done a season of IP hockey in our community and it had been very hard. He wanted to play hockey like his brother but it just didn’t work for him. He did not fit in. I remember the fear I felt bringing him to his first practice. Would he be accepted? Would we be told again that it wasn’t working? Instead we found a team that let him be himself. He is welcomed and celebrated every week. He is challenged to try hard things but never pushed too far outside his comfort zone. He has made friends, improved his skills, and proudly wears his team jacket to school every day. We have the opportunity to cheer him on without fearing what other parents are thinking or saying. He has a community that loves him just as he is. Every Saturday, he is treated like the star he is. We are very grateful to the Ottawa Hockey Stars for the experiences and opportunities they have provided for Jamie, without ever needing him to be anybody but the wonderful kid he is.
Our son Gavin #24 joined the Ottawa Special Hockey Stars in 2019. This program has given him so much more than we ever imagined. The dedicated coaches, and volunteers create a positive, inclusive, magical experience for the players every time they hit the ice, and during our team bonding excursions. We’ve seen Gavin’s confidence grow both on and off the ice over the years. As parents we are beyond grateful for this program, the sponsors that support it, and our extended hockey family.
My son Derek has been involved in the Ottawa Special Hockey Stars program for over a decade. The Head coach Jeff Kelly, his wife Leslie & daughter Kelsey & all other volunteer coaches have made a huge impact in Derek’s life. He loves being a goalie, has made many friendships throughout the years & enjoys all the other activities on and off ice that is offered by this program. He’s proud to be part of this incredible program where everyone is 100% volunteer, a program with strong values & integrity.