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Day With The Cup - Full Story

Day With The Cup - Part 1

Day With The Cup - Part 2

PUSH for Sled Hockey on 610 WTVN

PUSH for Sled Hockey on 610 WTVN - 610 WTVN
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Columbus Dispatch - "Boy Wants to Spread Joy of Hockey for All": Zach Rodier interview

Columbus Dispatch - "Young Volunteers Help Kids with Disabilities Play Sport They Themselves Love"

Watching her son on the ice at the Dublin Chiller can make Kim Ridout’s eyes well up.

She is moved to tears not when Griffin plays hockey but when he helps children with disabilities enjoy the sport.

During the past two years, Griffin, 12, and Zachary Rodier, 13, have become regular volunteers with the Ohio Sled Hockey Club.

The two help younger kids (mostly ages 3 to 8) put on gear and get into and out of their sleds (modified with bucket seats and skate blades); they also push around the ice any players who lack the strength to move themselves.

“It warms my heart,” said Kim Ridout, of Dublin. “He has a huge smile on his face when he’s doing this. He loves sharing his love of hockey with these kids.”

At a recent practice of the sled hockey club, Griffin was hampered by a boot on his right foot (suffered while playing hockey), so he focused on off-ice matters, helping Oliver Shipley, 5, prepare for practice.

Zachary, meanwhile, was playing goalie as the younger players fired pucks at him. Inside his caged helmet, he grinned widely as he lunged back and forth, parrying shots.

Kelly Fenster, general manager of the club, marvels at her young volunteers.

“They are so personable and so passionate,” she said. “They smile and love every moment; you can just tell they love being here.”

Better still, Fenster said, she sees the boys on their knees, getting face-to-face with the sled club kids — “which is so important because, when they’re in the sled, it can be hard to hear what they’re saying.”

Some of the club members’ parents even request that Griffin and Zachary be on the ice with their kids, she said.

“They’re just so good with them.”

The club, formed in 2001, draws about 25 participants to its weekly practices, Fenster said. The group splits into two based on skill, with Griffin and Zachary helping the younger kids. (The group numbered 10 at a recent practice.)

Both boys play youth hockey themselves, and both got involved with sled hockey in 2016.

Kim Ridout said Griffin’s interest was sparked when he saw sled-hockey players skating during intermission of a Columbus Blue Jackets game; Zachary’s mother, Pam Rodier, said her son learned about the club when a representative spoke at his former school, the Columbus Jewish Day School.

Griffin decided to ask for money for his 11th birthday in November 2016 and donated more than $500 to the club — which was used to help purchase a new sled (they can cost up to $1,200).

About that time, Fenster invited him to stop by a practice, and he has been volunteering since.

“I like to help people,” said Griffin, a sixth-grader at Grizzell Middle School. “It makes me feel good. Plus, it’s fun pushing them and being out there skating and shooting.”

Rodier decided to adopt the sled-hockey club as his bar mitzvah project. His first effort, he said, was a drive to collect donated hockey gear, which yielded about 600 items.

Then he started his own foundation, Push for Sled Hockey.

Through a Blue Jackets official, National Hockey League officials heard about Rodier’s efforts and last summer surprised him and the team by showing up to a practice, donating $10,000 and bringing the Stanley Cup with them.

With that major boost, Rodier said, his foundation has raised about $19,000.

“My goal is getting as many kids as possible to play,” said the eighth-grader at Metro Middle School, an independent public school (his family lives in Berwick). “Everyone deserves a chance to play hockey; it doesn’t matter if they have a disability. And I don’t want money to be an issue.”

Griffin has grown particularly close to 3-year-old club member Austin Evans, who has spina bifida.

“Austin calls him his hockey buddy,” said Austin’s father, Kyle Evans, an Upper Arlington resident. “They have special moves they do with each other, and Griffin has brought Austin gifts.

“There are a lot of special kiddos out there, but he’s exceptional. And Zach, too, for all he’s done for our club.”

Fenster said watching Griffin and Zach makes her think back to her own childhood.

“I look back at myself at that same age and wonder, ‘Would I have thought to do that?’ I don’t know.

“What amazing individuals, to give back at such a young age. It gives you hope that there is a lot of good out there.”

Article by Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch. For more information on this article, click here.