As late educator Rita Pierson eloquently stated, “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”
For the Black Swamp Ice Frogs hockey team, Mike Howick is that person. Mike is a Bowling Green State University alumnus who now resides in Bowling Green with his three children, plus extended family.
A program that fits
Mike’s son, Jack, is autistic and thus regular sports were not a good fit for him. Mike, wishing there was a way for Jack to participate in athletics, came across a special hockey tournament held in Toledo and watched footage of the Special Olympics. That sparked the idea to create a local hockey program for individuals with special needs. With the help of his friend Scott Paluch, a former BGSU head hockey coach, Mike founded the Black Swamp Ice Frogs hockey program in 2011.
When asked about the meaning of child advocacy, Mike said, “Every child has a dream. No matter if they have a disability. I believe that everyone wants to succeed and compete against others on a level playing field. That means competing against and helping others of similar abilities.” He is proud to have his family’s support with the team. All six children either play hockey or are junior coaches, making it quite the family activity.
Now in their fourth year, the Ice Frogs continue to grow. Mike says the players’ parents are the backbone of his program. They have done quite a bit of fundraising and are in charge of all board responsibilities as the program progresses.
Plans for 2016
The new year will bring much excitement and anticipation for the team. Mike is proud to announce that the Ice Frogs will help host an international tournament in February 2016 which will take place at the Bowling Green State University ice arena and Toledo’s Ottawa Park outdoor rink. There are currently 26 teams registered, and approximately 500 special athletes and their families will be in attendance.
The Ice Frogs team isn’t just for children. It includes people of all ages (5-55+) with special needs or disabilities that want to participate in sports and athletic events. The team expects to play 12-15 games this year, including travelling to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor and Detroit to compete with other teams.
Practices are held every Sunday at 5pm at the BGSU ice arena.
For anyone interested in joining the Ice Frogs, register online at americanspecialhockey.org or
call 301-704-0956 and then show up at the ice rink for practice.