“As someone with a disability, I go from being different from everybody at school to sledge hockey, where everyone has a disability,” Alyssa explains. “It’s like you’re all on the same playing field.”
Full and equal participation—that’s the spirit behind Manitoba Possible’s sledge hockey program. And with the generosity of United Way Winnipeg donors, the sport is not only socially inclusive but financially, too.
“We never want cost to be a barrier for families,” remarks Jaylene Irwin, who manages Manitoba Possible’s recreation programs. “That’s why we provide athletes with equipment and keep registration fees low, so everyone can play.”
For a decade, Jaylene has watched hundreds of Manitobans with disabilities become more confident, gain independence, and build mental and physical strength through the sledge hockey program. But it’s not every day she sees an athlete grow quite as quickly as Alyssa.
“As soon as she got into a sled, Alyssa showed natural talent,” Jaylene observes. “Our coaches recognized her skill right away and knew she’d go far.”
How far, exactly? Just one year after she picked up a hockey stick, Alyssa went on to play at the national level with the Canadian Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team—at only 14 years old.
“I’m a very competitive person,” Alyssa laughs. “I push myself pretty hard and have high standards for myself.”