Gonzaga exceptional bulldogs hockey program expands to community

Gonzaga exceptional bulldogs hockey program expands to community

The Gonzaga Exceptional Bulldogs Hockey program will become part of the Spokane Youth Hockey Association.

The program was started by special education professor, Mark Derby, in 2008 and can expand its outreach thanks to The Isaac Foundation.

The hockey program runs from October through March and teaches hockey to youth ages 3 through 21 with down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“The collaboration with The Isaac Foundation helps us establish a wider net of kids to recruit for the program because they are the largest parent financial support charity for autism in the area,” Darby said.

The partnership with the Spokane Youth Hockey Association provides students access to all equipment, except skates and hockey sticks, for a minimal cost per year. The Isaac Foundation has donated helmets, shin guards and other basics that participants need.

Participants have had the opportunity to scrimmage at a halftime of a Spokane Chiefs hockey game as well as other collaborations with organizations.

The team has allowed the participants to develop training modules that focus on basic skills. They are hoping to soon have a group for the beginners and an advanced skaters group.

They welcome Gonzaga student volunteers and hopes to recruit more volunteers from EWU and WSU.

“The program is very rewarding for the kids involved. It connects them to something that’s theirs. That’s an important part of growing up and being an adolescent,” said Derby.

Practices are Sundays at 3 p.m. and are held at the Eagles Ice Arena.