It’s game day at Gila River Arena, but not for the Arizona Coyotes. Instead, the skaters on the ice are playing for more than the final score.
“This is our only chance to play hockey. I’m so happy to be here,” said Parker Lane.
“[It] feels amazing!“ smiles Charlene Chavez.
Parker and Charlene are players on the One Step Coyotes, a team of young adults with intellectual disabilities. They’re on the ice competing in the Cactus Cup, One Step Beyond’s annual hockey exhibition game.
One Step Coyotes is just one of the programs created by One Step Beyond, a nonprofit designed to teach life skills, like working together, team building and training on the ice.
“They’ve been moving, they’ve been on the ice a lot.“ said Mindy French, Coach for the One Step Coyotes. “Their growth has been great.“
Along with playing here on the ice at Gila River Arena, these players from one step beyond got to meet Jakob Chychrun. The Arizona Coyotes and their star defenseman surprised the players and One Step Beyond with a ten-thousand dollar grant.
“You know it’s cool to see them grow and to see the sport have such a positive effect on their lives,“ said Jakob Chychrun, Defenseman for the Arizona Coyotes.
Each team made a mark on the scoreboard, the tension was high during the shootout, and not a single face without a smile.
“This is an accomplishment that we can do it, and we can show other [kids] you can do it. Don’t worry about it!“ said Lane.