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Hazel Park

March 22, 2013

Disabled athletes ‘skate without limits’ in charity game

March 30 event features former Red Wings players

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Jesus Villa, of Clinton Township, is among the disabled athletes on the Michigan Sled Dogs, which will play against a team of able-bodied athletes — also in sleds — as part of United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit’s annual charity hockey game at Hazel Park Viking Ice Arena March 30. Former Detroit Red Wings will take the ice following the Michigan Sled Dogs match.

HAZEL PARK — Proving they’re every bit as competitive, a nationally renowned team of disabled athletes will square off against a team of able-bodied athletes, helping to raise funds for United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit at the annual UCP fundraiser, Skate Without Limits, at Viking Ice Arena in Hazel Park March 30.

The disabled team, the Michigan Sled Dogs, play all over the country. To help their able-bodied opponents appreciate the limits they overcome to play at a competitive level, all players will move around in the high-speed sleds used by the disabled players.

The speed, intensity and precision with which the Michigan Sled Dogs play will open some eyes to the potential of disabled athletes, organizers say.

“No matter how disabled you are, everyone has potential to fulfill, and that is really what UCP is all about,” said Gabriella Burman, a member of UCP’s board of directors.

Following the Michigan Sled Dogs, ex-NHL players in the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association — including fan favorites John Ogrodnick, Lee Norwood and Mickey Redmond — will take to the ice against the UCP Pucksters, a team of fans who raised pledges for the cause.

At press time, they had already raised $10,000 — and that’s not including the checks some of the players will bring to the event.

The event also raises money through the cost of admission, a silent auction, a pizza afterglow party where attendees can mingle with pros, and “Chuck a Puck,” where for $5 a try, one can slide their puck as close to center ice as possible — the winner scoring Red Wings tickets and other items.

Now in its 13th year, Skate Without Limits has brought in $200,000 to date for UCP. The group assists the families of individuals with disabilities of any sort, including cerebral palsy — a medical condition impairing various functions like speech or mobility, depending on severity.

Services provided by UCP include assistance with finances, social security and other benefits; learning how to secure gainful employment; and Quick Ramps for Kids, which equips families of disabled children with portable ramps they can take on the road to help them wherever they go.

The UCP cause is very personal to Burman. Her oldest daughter, Michaela, had been born with cerebral palsy and other complications, and passed away at age 5 in 2009.

“We help people live life without limits, regardless of their disabilities,” Burman said. “Our goal is an inclusive society where people of all abilities can reach their highest potential.”

Mike Ward, board member and co-chair of the development committee for UCP, said Skate Without Limits is a great way for people to show their support. He noted there are some unique match-ups this year, including an able-bodied mother playing against her son, who has cerebral palsy.

“You’ll get to be close to the ex-NHL players, too,” Ward said. “If you’re looking for something to do on Easter weekend, this is a fun family event for an incredibly good cause.”

United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit’s 13th Annual Skate Without Limits will take place at Hazel Park Viking Ice Arena, 1555 E. Woodward Heights Blvd., on Saturday, March 30. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. Sled hockey starts at 4 p.m., followed by Red Wings Alumni vs. UCP Pucksters. 

Tickets cost $10 per person or $25 for five people. Children ages 5 and younger get in free. The pizza afterglow party is $10 per person. For more information, call (248) 557-5070 ext. 154, or visit http://www.skatewithoutlimits.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.