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The Rochester Ice Cats

Rochester Special Hockey, or the Ice Cats, is an organization that serves people with disabilities in Rochester and surrounding communities.
Rochester Special Hockey, or the Ice Cats, is an organization that serves people with disabilities in Rochester and surrounding communities. 

"We started the program to help develop skill sets that some of our kids don't have, partly with socialization and responsibility. We are trying to give them enhancements in their life, things that their siblings and friends already experience. We use the game of ice hockey as that tool or that method," president Tom Simmons said.

The organization has increased its participation from 12 to 42 players and its members range from three to 45 years old. For these players, being a part of the Ice Cats is about more than stats in a box score.

"There is no focus on score, no focus on winning and losing. The focus is on what we can develop in them for self-esteem and how we can get them to be socially responsible," Simmons said.

Parents like Janet Gaupp, whose son plays on the team, see their children maturing. 

"His attitude and his independence has changed. We used to do rollerskating at school and for two years I held his hand every month and now that he is skating with the Ice Cats he is like you can sit here mom," she said.

Independence is a common theme of appreciation among parents whose children are part of the Ice Cats. They say it is truly the gift that keeps on giving. 

"He is able to get out there and be independent on the ice. There are no therapists or anyone showing him what to do. The coaches obviously coach him, but he is able to get out there and do it on his own," Gaupp said.

The bond that is created goes beyond the walls of the ice and lasts forever. 

"I see kids out every day in life and the friendships that have been created and what is there is so wonderful," Simmons said.

For more information on the Rochester Ice Cats, click here.
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