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“She’s accepted and loved,” mom describes hockey team for special needs children

YORK, Pa.– A new ice hockey team is York is aiming to have everyone feel included. Rich Garrison the York Polar Bear’s coach, founder, and general m...

YORK, Pa.-- A new ice hockey team is York is aiming to have everyone feel included. Rich Garrison the York Polar Bear's coach, founder, and general manager said it's one of the only ones for the area.

The team is coed and made up of children with special needs. The team has about 12 players from 5 to 17-years-old.

"When you see it, you come away with something special," Garrison said. "It's just something that you can't put into words."

Garrison came up for the idea when he saw a team of disabled children in a different state. He told his wife, that he needed to start one in this area. In March, he started the team with their first practice.

"We had several children who first showed up here and cry because they didn't want to get here on the ice," Garrison said.

After a few weeks, the children went from not knowing how to skate, to being able to skate the whole rink by themselves.

For parents this team has been a great opportunity for their children.

"She's so excited about it and so are we," Loren Hall said.

Her daughter Vivenne is legally blind. Hall said this allows for her to be able to work on her dexterity skills.

12-year-old Adam Bernhardt has down syndrome and his dad said he looks forward to Monday everyday.

"He can kind of orient his week around different things and Monday is absolutely hockey day and he's very excited he's loving it," his dad David Bernhardt said.

Each member of the team is given a mentor by the York Devil Ice Hockey team. The mentors are children as well. They said they enjoy to see the children learning the game. Garrison said the message of the team is to show everyone can be accepted.

"We wanted to show them that the two can come together," Garrison said.

In the community the team is accepted. The families don't pay a penny to have the kids on the team. The ice time, equipment, and help is all free.

Garrison say this is a great opportunity for all involved.

"When everybody told them they'll never do that, and here they are. They're out there doing that," Garrison said.

Information can be found here to be part of the team or to donate to the cause.