The Smokettes female hockey team donated two sledges to the Trail Memorial Centre. The sleds are available to the public to try out free of charge during public skating or can be reserved for private functions. From left: Jenny Wolczuk, Holly Jenkin, Eli Kivell and Bridget Kivell. Submitted photo.

Smokettes make unique donation to Greater Trail community

The Smokettes hockey team raises awareness on disabilities, donate two sledges to the Cominco Arena

A unique and inspiring donation to the Trail Memorial Centre will make a difference for many in Greater Trail.

The Smokettes female hockey team donated two sledge hockey sleds (aka sledges) to the arena with funds generated from their annual February hockey tournament in Rossland in hopes of not only helping those with disabilities but also to raise awareness in the community.

Smokettes player and physiotherapist Bridget Kivell is a member of the Smokettes Charitable Giving Committee and a driving force behind the donation.

“I love exercise and I love sport, especially hockey,” said Kivell. “There are already so many barriers for people to participate in sports and exercise, if we can remove some of them, then we can get more people out there.”

The sleds are outfitted with blades underneath the seat, and aid people with mobility issues in skating and sledge hockey by gliding along the ice surface with the aid of two small hockey sticks – used not only to stick handle, pass, and shoot, but to propel and maneuver the sleds.

Before moving to Rossland, Kivell lived in Edmonton and was a volunteer with the Paralympic Sports Association (PSA). She especially enjoyed the PSA kids program where they would regularly take to a fleet of sledges and play hockey together.

“It’s amazing how it levels the playing field, in fact, the wheelchair athletes often had the upper hand on the able bodied players because they have great upper body strength,” explained Kivell.

In 2012, the Canadian Men’s Sledge Hockey team, coached by Trail native Mike Mondin, visited the Silver City, bringing their game and sharing their inspirational stories. Kivell, along with her son Eli, visited the Canadian sledge-hockey camp and the interaction with players and coaches also left a lasting impression.

“Since I’ve moved to Trail, that experience has always been in the back of mind . . . This year I had a friend who wasn’t able to play her son’s minor hockey parent-kid game because she couldn’t get permission to be on the ice in her wheelchair and I thought, ‘It’s time to make this happen.’”

Kivell contacted Movin’ Mountains Therapy to inquire about the need for a child-sized sledge in addition to an adult sled.

“I thought since we were ordering one, we might as well get two, and they were excited about the idea as well.”

She then approached the rest of the Charitable Giving Committee about the idea to purchase two sledges, and the Smokettes happily gave the green light to make it happen. She contacted a manufacturer in Ontario and a week later the sleds arrived.

Yet, as great a benefit the sledges will be for the disabled, the Smokettes hope the donation will also raise awareness and offer a fresh perspective on and off the ice for Greater Trail residents.

“I hope it inspires people to be more active but also allows people to just experience the social aspect of being out on the ice with their friends and families,” said Kivell. “I went out with my friend last week and we brought both sledges out on the ice and I was surprised at how much interest there was from able-bodied people to try them out.

“My friend’s son got in the small one and they got to skate together … I looked over at one point and they were stopped at center ice having a little chat. It was awesome and that is what it is really all about.

“I also hope it gets people thinking about how we can make other activities and environments more inclusive in Trail because sometimes I think in smaller cities that accessibility sometimes gets overlooked.”

The Smokettes are comprised of a Rossland and Trail team that compete against each other and in tournaments throughout the hockey season, and have hosted their own tournament at the Rossland Arena in February for the past 40 years.

Every year, the Smokettes donate funds to local organizations and individuals with a focus on youth and women. The team’s past philanthropic endeavours include donations to the female Kootenay Wildcats AA hockey team, the Trail Museum, a number of families in need of medical care and support, the FAIR society, the Rossland Figure Skating Club, an annual scholarship for a J. L. Crowe graduating student, the Trail Food Bank, Firemen’s Hamper Fund, Rossland Food Bank, Rossland youth recreation bursary, and many more.

The sleds are available to residents free of charge during public skating, however, a helmet is mandatory. The sledges also can be reserved for private functions or events by calling Trail Parks and Recreation at 364-0888.

The sledges also have a push handle that easily snaps onto either sled so those that are unable to propel themselves can be escorted around Cominco ice.

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