LOVE OF THE GAME: BRINGING 2 YOUNG PLAYERS TOGETHER WITH UCP DETROIT
Jake Cooper, an eighth grader at Norup International School in Oak Park, is a natural on the ice, having started playing ice hockey when he was three. Now he’s hoping his love of the game will help Mia Lewis, another eighth grader with a disability, raise funds so that she can play in a sled hockey exhibition game at the annual United Cerebral Palsy of Metropolitan Detroit Skate Without Limits fundraiser on March 21, 2015, at the Vikings Arena in Hazel Park. Now in its 15th year, the game, which pits the UCP Pucksters against Detroit Red Wings Alumni – including Mickey Redmond and John Ogrodnick – has raised more than $200,000 to help people with disabilities live life without limits. The Southfield-based UCP Detroit serves those with all types of disabilities in any way they can – education, finance, technology and equipment needs.
Mia, an eighth grader at Holmes Middle School in Livonia, MI, has Transverse Myelitis, a condition in which the covering over certain nerves in her spine are gone.
“It’s like having an electrical cord without any insulation on it,” says Lonnie Lewis, Mia’s father. Because of damage to her nerves, Mia is paralyzed from the waist down and has a very small amount of sensation in her legs but no muscle movement in them. Nevertheless, Mia is a tough competitor on the newly formed Michigan Youth Sled Hockey Program (mysledhockey.org), founded by UCP Detroit board President Mike Ward and a group of parents.
“Mia shows people that a disability doesn’t have to hold you back from anything,” her mother, Andrea Munzenberger, says. “If you believe in yourself and are willing to stretch yourself, you can do anything.”
Andrea says that as parents, she and Lonnie have challenged Mia to push herself and do things she didn’t think she could do. “For example, when Mia was young, we challenged her to figure out how to hoist herself onto a counter-height kitchen chair. She didn’t think she could do it at first, but we were patient with her and eventually she was able to do it. It was such a great accomplishment. Mia is more independent now because of it.”
Mia also trains with the Livonia City Swim Club and has become a very strong swimmer . Someday she hopes to compete in the Paralympic games.
By signing up to play in the sled hockey exhibition game, in which players are strapped into a sled and use their upper bodies to play an intense game, Mia has committed to raise “as much money as she can,” Ward says, and Jake is intent on helping her reach her goal. The two are posted on the event website. http://skatewithoutlimits.org/players/jake-coopermia-lewis/
Then Jake and his mom, Dana, send it to all their family and friends. Jake also hands out flyers at his hockey games and to his school. In the first month alone they have reached 75% of their goal.