Jenkins Aim to Bring Sled Hockey to SoCal

January 17, 2011
By Chris Peters
Special to USAHockey.com

Nick Jenkins, a 10-year-old from San Bernardino, Calif., is the type of child who looks at a challenge and just smiles. He knows he’ll overcome it with
hard work and a positive attitude. It’s just the way he is.

Nick was born with spina bifida, which in layman’s terms means he was born with a broken back. Despite being confined mainly to a wheelchair, Nick has maintained his trademark positive attitude and hasn’t allowed his disability prevent him from doing the things he wants to do.

“Nick’s a go-getter,” said Christie Jenkins, Nick’s mother. “He’s a real inspiring kind of guy.”

SoCal Sled hockey

With the help of his parents, Nick is now taking that go-getter attitude and trying to make a difference.

After seeing photos of kids playing sled hockey, Nick told his mother that was the sport he was meant to play. However, sled hockey did not exist anywhere in Southern California.

“It’s weird because we live in Southern California and it’s a population center, so you would think there would be more options, but there just aren’t,”
Christie said.

Think that was going to stop a go-getter like Nick? No way.

Christie, her husband, Todd, and Nick have made it their mission to form Southern California’s first-ever sled hockey team. To help expedite the process,
Christie applied to receive as Pepsi Refresh Everything Grant for $25,000.

The grant, which is awarded entirely on votes from the general public, would help buy new sleds, new pads and equipment, cover rink fees and also cover the fees associated with becoming a 501c3 non-profit organization.

After holding two clinics and a series of practices on borrowed sleds and discounted ice, the response was overwhelming with more than 80 people at the
last clinic over the summer.

“This is a sport Southern California wants and needs,” Christie said.

Christie cited census numbers from 2000 that showed there were roughly 7,000 children under the age of 16 that had a physical disability in her area.

“Think about 7,000 kids. That’s like two big high schools, at least, in our area. Now imagine two high schools with no sports, nothing, no options,” she
said.

Despite the need for more options for the disabled community, the economy has made it difficult to raise money for such an endeavor. However, tough economic times are no excuse in the Jenkins’ eyes.

“I don’t want to wait. Even though the economy’s bad, these kids are here now. They are only going to be kids once,” Christie said. “If we wait 10 years
to start it, they’re going to be adults by then. They need to know how to be on a team and things like that.”

It has been a struggle to get the necessary donations to start their own program. That’s why Jenkins sees the Pepsi Refresh Everything Grant as a chance to make the biggest difference.

The sled hockey team, which has been playing out of Center Ice Arena in Ontario, Calif., has been using sleds and sticks borrowed from Disneyland.

The sleds were in storage after a sled hockey exhibition in Anaheim more than 15 years ago. Since then, the sleds were sitting in a closet and were only
found after Todd Jenkins found someone who was willing to look.

The Jenkins family is grateful that they were lucky enough to find the sleds, but they won’t last forever and many of the sleds are too small for the adult
players.

With the help of the grant, Southern California Sled Hockey will be able to buy at least 15 brand new sleds that will be property of the club, so that
they can be passed down to new players. Additionally, they hope to buy new sticks and better equipment.

The team hasn’t had a practice since the summer, since ice costs in the middle of the traditional hockey season are too pricey for them to buy. With the
help of the grant, the club will be able to set aside funds to practice more consistently.

The hope is that after the first club gets off the ground, efforts will begin to form another team closer to Los Angeles, due to the high demand in the
area.

It’s a big undertaking, but its one that Christie Jenkins knows is well worth it.

“Nick deserves to be able to play a sport. He deserves to be able to have the same things his friends that are able bodied have,” she said.

“The other players on the team are inspiring also. I look at some of the other kids and adults and I think of all the things that they’ve been through.
They get out there on the ice and put their all into it and really love the sport.”

While the Southern California Sled Hockey program will be built up one way or another, the Pepsi Refresh Everything Grant would make the process a lot
easier.

The hockey community has come through so far by voting en masse, but Southern California Sled Hockey still needs more support online. The team needs to finish among the top-10 in votes to earn the $25,000 grant.

The Jenkins family has learned a lot about their new, extended hockey family.

“I think that hockey people are very close knit and very helpful,” Christie said. “Whether we win the grant or not, the support has been overwhelming.”

Regardless of winning the grant, a tough road still lies ahead for Southern California Sled Hockey, as is often the case when the dreams are big. It’s
going to be a challenge, but Nick Jenkins is smiling.

To help Southern California Sled Hockey win a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Everything Grant visit the link below.

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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