In the hockey universe, statistics are everywhere. Some stats are good: wins, goals, an increase in youth enrollment numbers. Some are bad: penalty minutes, losses, a negative +/-. But in the world of Autism Spectrum Disorder, the statistics are downright chilling:
In the end, hockey statistics are but a bunch of numbers that speak to the specifics of a game. When you walk out of the rink and get in your car, those statistics cease to mean much of anything. Unfortunately, the same is not true when discussing the statistics around Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“Like a lot of medical conditions, autism certainly and directly impacts the individual that is diagnosed,” says Craig Beck, whose son Colin has the disorder. “But because this is something that is diagnosed so early, that it affects kids that ultimately grow up into adults, it’s a lifelong disorder that impacts the entire family. It’s a disorder that requires a huge support system, is constantly “on” and never “off”, and families, while they will most likely never ask directly for support, can always use it.”
Friend Mike Gibeault, whose nephew Nick has also been diagnosed with an ASD, concurs: “This is no down time for a family with a child diagnosed with ASD, and this starts from young age all the way up to adulthood.”
And so in 2008 the two friends, having spent significant time in ice arenas playing pickup and tournament hockey together over the years, started thinking about organizing a local tournament. Raising money and awareness for a cause close to their hearts was obvious. Drawing initially from a pool of friends, then tapping the strong local hockey populace, the pair created the Chatter Cup, organized to benefit local families affected by ASDs. In their tournament’s first three years, it has raised over $92,000.
This year the pair will host the 4th Annual Chatter Cup Hockey Tournament over the weekend of July 29, 30, and 31. The 2011 tournament will feature two men’s divisions, two women’s divisions, and a new bantam youth division, with all games split between Tri Town Arena and Ice Den Arena, both in Hooksett, NH. Despite the large amount of money raised during the tourney’s first three years, the 2011 iteration is taking aim at a lofty goal: $50,000 raised this year alone, all of which will be donated to New Hampshire Easter Seals Autism Network.
“Easter Seals is a HUGE part of our support system,” says Beck. Last fall, Easter Seals facilitated a 6-week parent support program for families affected by ASDs, allowing these parents to be competent in supporting the needs of not only their own families, but in other ASD-affected families as well. Easter Seals also partners with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire to offer special ASD-only hours that are closed off to the public, allowing children and families affected by ASD to explore and learn on their own time. In addition, Easter Seals provides assessments, diagnosis, and consultative services for children suspected of having ASDs.
“With so many families throughout New Hampshire affected by Autism, we are grateful to the Chatter Cup Committee for choosing Easter Seals NH’s Autism Network as the 2011 Chatter Cup beneficiary,” says Larry Gammon, President & CEO, Easter Seals NH. “The Chatter Cup is a wonderful event that is instrumental in helping Easter Seals NH fulfill the mission of providing children and adults with disabilities or special needs equal opportunities in their communities. We are looking forward to a weekend of hockey, children’s activities and excitement.”
The money raised through the tournament comes from a combination of corporate sponsorships, team entry fees, a silent auction, and individual tax-deductible donations, which can be made using this link. Whether or not they reach this year’s $50,000 goal remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure — the Chatter Cup is a labor of love for its organizers. The hours are long and unpaid, and the task of organizing dozens of teams and sponsors is daunting. But Beck and Gibeault wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is something I enjoy doing because we can make a difference and do something to help other people who have been impacted by ASDs, much like our families,” says Gibeault. Beck adds: “It’s an event specifically for Colin, I get to hang with all my friends for the weekend, and it supports families and individuals impacted by ASDs, a group of people that have been dealt a bit of a bad hand. Any little support we can provide is a good thing.”
When it comes to hockey, long hours in the gym and hard work in practice can improve one’s statistics. Thanks to the hard work of Craig Beck and Mike Gibeault, and the selfless donation of time and money by all who support the Chatter Cup, here’s hoping we can improve the statistics regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders as well.
As part of our months-long magnet drive, our readers helped raise $200 towards this goal. But let’s not stop there. To donate to the Chatter Cup fund for my team, please visit this website. To learn more about the Chatter, view the game schedules, or sign up to volunteer, visit http://www.thechattercup.com.