by Debra Johnson, Published December 13, 2012
YPSILANTI - Funds raised from a charity hockey event will be used to purchase new occupational therapy equipment for the Autism Collaborative Center (ACC) at Eastern Michigan University.
The new sensory integration therapy tools, such as a platform swing, tumbling mats, and a crash pit, are designed to help children and adults with autism develop motor planning, motor skills and improve social interaction.
The ACC was presented with a check in the amount of $10,471.45 during a ceremony held on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the center.
"The timing of the gift is excellent," said Jon Margerum-Leys, associate dean of the College of Education and administrator at the ACC. "The center will be hiring a full time occupational therapist and has a critical need for the equipment. The clients, therapists, faculty, and staff at the ACC are all very grateful for the gift."
Each year, the Ann Arbor Master's and Platinum Hockey Leagues host a two-game hockey fundraising event to benefit a charitable cause. The ACC was selected as this year's recipient for the annual event, held on Sept. 29 at the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea, Mich.
The competition included an over 40 age group game, and an over 50 age group game. Each player contributed a minimum of $50 to participate, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the charity. The leagues also held a Silent Auction and a 50/50 raffle in which several corporate sponsors demonstrated their community commitment through a $250 donation.
Karl Christen, owner of the Arctic Coliseum donated the ice time and event space. He also offered one free family skate pass to a parent or guardian of an autistic child that attended the game.
Derrick Oxender, chairman & CEO for Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, Inc. and Gary Gentile, VP and wholesale business manager for U.S. Bank, both hockey players in the leagues, coordinated the fundraiser.
"The idea for the charity skate was hatched one night after our hockey league game - kind of on a whim," said Gentile. "It started off as challenge game between two rival leagues, and Derrick and I thought that making it into a charity event could add to the drama."
Oxender said, "We just thought we should do something to give back to the community, and what better way than to have a hockey game fundraiser."
Melissa Cretsinger, a guest speaker at the opening celebration of the ACC and the EMU Children's Institute in 2011 was instrumental in getting the ACC involved in the fundraiser. Her son Tyler, 6, was diagnosed with autism in 2007.
"Since Tyler's diagnosis, I have met many angels along the way who helped guide our journey, and one of those people was Amy Sanderson, who is the associate director of family and community services at the ACC," said Cretsinger. "As a result of this connection, and all the friends I've met along the way who also use the services at the ACC, I will always do whatever I can to help support the organization."
When Randy Menard, a co-worker of Cretsinger's, mentioned that his hockey league supported a charity each year, she quickly told him about the ACC.
"Playing hockey and helping families - life just doesn't get much better than that," Menard said. "Given the staggering statistics regarding autism, we felt the ACC would get the greatest benefit from the funds."
Cretsinger said it was a great night and that she looked forward to hearing about how the gift will help the children and families who benefit from the services at the ACC.
Autism is a pervasive, neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person's emotional and social development, behavior, and thinking skills. In the last 10 years, autism rates in the United States have risen from 1 in 100,000 people to the current 1 in 88 people.
Founded in 2009, the ACC provides high-quality direct services to children and adults with autism, their parents, siblings and caregivers. The services include occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, music therapy, social work and psychological services, nursing, dietetics/nutrition, educational support, help for attending and succeeding in college, and recreation therapy.
For more information about Eastern's Autism Collaborative Center, go to the ACC homepage. Click on Platinum Masters Hockey League or on Ann Arbor Masters Hockey League, for additional information about the hockey leagues.