Sled hockey gives people with disabilities a way to hit the ice

Published On: Nov 01 2012 09:42:47 PM CDT   Updated On: Nov 01 2012 11:29:13 PM CDT
TOMAH, Wis. -- -

People living with disabilities face many challenges they have to find ways to overcome.

And while it can mean they have to miss out on some activities, the Tomah VA Medical Center is working to make sure that doesn't happen.

The center put on a sled hockey clinic designed to get everyone on the ice no matter what their circumstance.

It's just like hockey, only with a sled instead of skates and two sticks instead of one

"You don't go backwards in a sled. What you have to do is turn yourself around," said USA Paralympic Hockey coach Brad Roethlisberger. "Most of you already realize on the bottom of the sticks are some pretty sharp picks."

It's a new experience for many at the Tomah VA Medical Center sled hockey clinic,  including Vietnam veteran John Kast, who suffers from Parkinson's disease as a result of his deployment.

"It comes from the elements over there. Everything was contaminated," said Kast.

He said he came out to the event because his physical therapists suggested he give it a try.

"I didn't know they had something like this here. It's kind of fun. I was glad these people brought them out here for us to try," said Kast.

The clinic is open to anyone, but it's those a few years younger than Kast that give him some motivation.

"To see the young ones do it and for myself, to do it and try see if I can do what the young ones are doing," said Kast.

Those "young ones" include 11-year-old Sevanna Utesch  who has spina bifida and couldn't believe her luck when her mom told her where they were going.

"I found out that I was coming to this and I got super excited and I was like, 'Sweet momma!'" said Utesch.

"I do believe my daughter is one of the ones having the most fun out there," said Sevanna's mom Shannon Utesch. "We have been trying to find different things she can do and this was a perfect opportunity and maybe find a mentor for her in one of the vets."

And while it was both Kast and Utesch's first try, it certainly won't be their last.

"I'm going to go back out," said Kast.

This was the first time the Tomah V-A put on the event.

Organizers said they plan on hosting it again next year.