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RI Disabled/Special Hockey News

12/16/2017, 1:45pm EST
By RI Hockey

Disabled and Special Hockey Representative Appointed


RI Hockey is pleased to announce the appointment of their first Disabled/Special Hockey Section Representative for USA Hockey, Deborah Ormerod.  Deborah will represent RI Hockey on all matters regarding Disabled and Special Hockey with the New England District and USA Hockey.  Deb's contact information is posted on the Executive page should you have any questions or need information on available programs.

Deb has been on the staff of the Rhode Island Special Hockey Program since its inception in 2007. The founding director of the program had coached her sons, and knowing her background of working with special needs children, asked if she would be interested in getting involved with the start-up program. In the early years, Deb helped as an off-ice adviser working with coaches and parents to develop best practices for some of the more challenging skaters. But in time, Deb dusted off her skates and figure skating skills to work as an on-ice coach. Now in the program’s 10th season, she continues in the role of keeping a constant eye on the younger skaters and mentoring the high school junior coaches with strategies and methods for some of the more challenging players.

Deb lives in Rumford Rhode Island and works at East Providence High School where she serves as Department Chair of Special Services as well as Coordinator of the Extended School Year Summer Program. Uniquely, several of the skaters in the special hockey program attend the high school and come under her oversight during their school week.

Deb has always felt the calling to work with children with special needs. After attaining her Master’s Degree in Special Ed. from Providence College she took the position as a special education teacher at the Groden Center, a leader in the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities where she rose to the position unit supervisor before leaving for East Providence High.  During her years as a high school student she dedicated her time at Meeting Street School and throughout college volunteered at Bradley Hospital.

Whether it’s tying skates, encouraging new skaters onto the ice for the very first time, holding hands with a learn-to-skate player, cheer-leading with parents, acting as photographer for the RI Special Hockey facebook page or arranging pizza and drinks for the occasional after ice-session party, Deb’s weekly contributions to the program are invaluable.

In addition to her work in special ed., Deb keeps busy with gardening, knitting and two dogs. She is the mother of three children in their twenties- Ryan, Kevin and Erin, who also worked as an on-ice coach with the program in its early years. Deb also serves as the Curator and Vice President of the East Providence Historic District Commission.

Our congratulations and best wishes on her new appointment with USA Hockey!


Meet Coach Shawn Fennell from RI Special Hockey


In the hustle and bustle before and after our ice sessions we never have the time to meet the coaches who work with our kids week after week.  So today we want to take a few moments to introduce you to Coach Shawn Fennell.

Coach Shawn has volunteered as an on-ice coach with Rhode Island Special Hockey since 2015. He tends to work with our learn-to-skate players, and you’ll always find him singling out individual kids for some well needed one-on-one instruction.  Apart from being an experienced skater and player, Shawn has a noticeably gentle and attentive way of interacting with all the kids - And it’s no wonder why. 

Shawn has a deep passion for making all of society more aware of the importance of supporting children and families that are stricken with life threatening illnesses or living with disabilities. Over the past years he has devoted himself to bringing change in how we, as a society, support those children and their families — to create a way to say, “Hey…I get you, I understand.”  From this very simple idea, Shawn has started a worldwide movement where a simple sign-language wink says, “I get you, I understand”. 

Here is an excerpt from the website

When many of us encounter a child with a disability, we tend to look away or alter our path — simply because we don’t know what to say or do… when we want to extend support, we are often concerned about how our actions will be perceived: “I don’t want to appear insensitive, but I don’t want to infringe on the family’s privacy,” … Such thoughts can result in us opting to do nothing. What remains in the wake of doing nothing is an obvious, uncomfortable, and unproductive void.

So, instead of living with inaction, discomfort, and awkwardness, we’ve launched Wink. This awareness-raising campaign promotes the nonverbal, nonintrusive action of a “wink,” as spoken in American Sign Language, as a branded and recognized way to convey to children with disabilities — and their families — that their courageous example has touched our hearts.

In addition to a 30 minute documentary that highlights families living with disabilities, Sean also produced a 30 second awareness video promoting the idea of “Wink” that has been shown by the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, as well as at the home rinks of the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars of the NHL.

If that’s not enough, Sean is also a public speaker and the author of an action packed novel, appropriately titled “Wink”. It’s the story of a girl who overcomes obstacles to learn life lessons, and in doing so finds faith, hope, love, understanding, courage and, in the end, awareness.

Many thanks to Coach Shawn for his dedication to our RI Special Hockey program and to his bigger worldwide vision to spread awareness of how we can better relate to children living with disabilities.

Take a moment to see Sean’s efforts in action at or say hello to him next time you are at the rink.

RI Special Hockey skates Saturday mornings 10 AM at Dennis Lynch Arena in Pawtucket RI

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