Tucker Olson is a normal, 9 year-old boy in that he wants to participate in sports and play with his friends.
Posted on 4/16/16
By Melissa Anderson
An obstacle to those endeavors is that he was born with Spina Bifida that starts at L1, which means he has limited to no feeling from the waist down.
Tucker, his twin sister Trinity, and older brother Tanner spend time bonding over various things. One thing that all three share is a love of hockey. Tucker and Trinity, along with parents Tonia and Troy Olson, enjoy watching and cheering Tanner on as he plays hockey with his teammates for the Langdon Blades at the Bantam level.
“While we were attending Tanner’s Bantam State tournament in Bismarck, we were approached by some parents from the Minot team,” Tonia Olson said, “They asked if we would be interested in having Tucker participate in ‘Dreams In Motion’ a sled hockey event for the mobility impaired and the visually impaired at the MAYSA Arena in Minot.”
With hockey such a big part of the Olson family, Tanner traveling all over with his team, and dad Troy helping the team out whenever assistance is needed, Tucker, Trinity and Tonia are three of the loudest fans in the stands at games whether they are home or away.
The family of five also cheers loudly for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and NHL Minnesota Wild with pride. Tucker cheers loudest for his favorite Wild player, #11 Zach Parise. Needless to say, when the opportunity for Tucker to play his favorite sport presented itself, Tonia and Troy knew they had to give their son the opportunity.
“We felt that ‘Dreams In Motion’ was a wonderful opportunity for Tucker to participate in the sport he loves and be part of a team,” Olson said.
“I was excited but nervous a little too because I didn’t know how to do it,” Tucker said, ”I’ve only seen a hockey sled once in a book when my Mom showed me a picture of the USA Para Olympic Team, and I was little then.”
Dreams in Motion was started in November 2011, and its mission is to provide recreational and sporting opportunities for youth and young adults, from ages 2 to 25, with mobility challenges or visual impairments and their families and friends. The non-profit organization was founded by Annette Kaip of Bismarck whose son, Michael, was the student manager for Mandan High School Hockey Team.
“He loved hockey and had been student managing since he was in 5th grade,” Kaip explained, “Cerebral Palsy prevented him from playing the game.”
After hearing about how Hope, Inc., located in Fargo, hosted sled hockey games during her son’s sophomore year, Kaip arranged for him to participate at a sled hockey game in Fargo. The game was slated for the same day as a game Kaip’s team that he managed had in Fargo. The Mandan team arranged to leave early to allow them to support Michael in his sled hockey game.
“The best part was when the Hope, Inc. coach invited the Mandan players to get in sleds and play on the ice along side Michael,” Kaip said, “Playing the game he loved with his peers meant the world to him – it is taken for granted sometimes by those who do not have a disability.”
For the Olsons, traveling to the ‘Dreams in Motion’ event held a number of surprises for them. One of them being the atmosphere itself.
“When we arrived for the event, it was so much more than we had anticipated,” Olson said.
There was food, a family game area, and the local hockey players there to assist with every need, including telling the Olsons what to expect, equipment fitting, placing the participants into the sleds and accompanying them “every ‘slide’ of the way”. At the beginning of the game players’ names were announced like professionals when they slid out on to the ice.
“I was happy about all the hockey players there to help me into my sled and stayed with me on the ice until I could do it,” Tucker said.
“My brother Tanner said I looked just like a pro out there on the ice. I love sled hockey, and I want to do it again tomorrow and next week,” Tucker added.
Family members were also encouraged to try the sled hockey experience as well. Olson was very surprised at how much upper body strength was needed to push the sleds across the ice and play.
The experience that Olson described is exactly what Kaip hoped to achieve for families when she started ‘Dreams in Motion’.
“The experience is amazing. You don’t know what you have been missing until you experience it; then, you don’t ever want the opportunities to end,” Kaip stated.
Kaip continued by explaining the impact that sports and recreational activities have in allowing participants to learn life lessons that help them become responsible adults contributing to their communities: team work, compromise, communication, learning to win and lose gracefully.
Participants gain confidence and self esteem that allow them to take more risks and try new things in everyday life. The benefit to parents and families is that they finally get the opportunity to cheer on all of their kids participating in sports that they love.
“Everybody deserves to have this opportunity while growing up,“ Kaip said, “Programming full seasons of adaptive sports with the use of a facility and committed coaches is what every park district should aspire to. Kids with disabilities may need this more than any other population but are often left out.”
At the ‘Dreams in Motion’ event in Minot, the coach that taught the kids is also a player for the USA Para Olympic Team and instructed the group from start to finish.
“I liked playing hockey with our coach,” Tucker said.
Tucker had an amazing experience overall and was very happy to share what his favorite part of the day spent with ‘Dreams in Motion’ playing sled hockey was.
“Doing Zach Parise moves and making my first goal,” Tucker shared.
At the end of the event, Tucker and his family had made wonderful memories and created hopes for future events.
“The overall experience was beneficial for the whole family. For Tucker, events like this and, hopefully, many more to come, have inspired him and switched his role from spectator to player. In a word, what ‘Dreams In Motion’ means to us? Joy,” Olson said
Currently, there are not other chapters of ‘Dreams in Motion’ or Hope, Inc. Dreams in Motion has events primarily in the Mandan/Bismarck area and Hope, Inc. is in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Kaip has hopes that organizations such as hers and Hope, Inc will catch on in other communities, spreading opportunities for kids like Tucker and her son.
“Most adaptive sports programs start from a grassroots movement in a community that decides it is important. It is so great to see the amazing support in Minot. I cannot wait to see what happens,” Kaip said.