When the Plymouth Whalers skate in the team’s second annual Alumni Game on Saturday, August 7 at 4:30pm at Compuware Arena, they’ll be playing for a single goal – to increase awareness and raise funds to support the local autistic community.
The game is an opportunity for Whaler fans to reconnect with players who represent every season of the franchise, dating back to 1990. Several Whalers currently playing in the National Hockey League are scheduled to play in the game, including Chad LaRose, James Neal, David Legwand, James Wisniewski and Jared Boll.
Before the game, fans will be able to participate in an autograph session with all players from 2:30-4pm. In addition, the Whalers are teaming up with the Hope for Autism Foundation and Autism Compass as their charity partners.
“We are hoping to raise much needed awareness around autism, especially the needs of individuals as they mature and transition into the local community,” said Lori Kinjorski, Vice President of the Hope for Autism Foundation. “Today there’s a lack of housing options available for individuals with autism who, with the proper facility, assistance and support, can live a much more independent life. The Hope for Autism Foundation (created by two sisters who have children living with autism) is focused on providing solutions to this existing problem.”
According to The Hope For Autism Foundation, autism is a spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, and unusual and repetitive behavior. Some, but not all, people with autism are non-verbal. The Hope for Autism Foundation understands the special needs of those living with autism and their families and will team up with the Whalers to welcome the autistic community.
Examples of these accommodations at the alumni game include a sensory-friendly room available during the game, dedicated family-friendly restrooms, gluten-free concession options for purchase and educational resources and information about autism.
Kinjorski speaks from experience about how attending a Whalers game last season helped her family, which includes 11-year-old Gabby Kinjorski, who has autism.
“I was very hesitant to take my daughter to any sporting event,” Kinjorski admitted. “I was worried that it would be very loud and overwhelming for her. What would I do if she couldn’t handle the experience? Would there be room for her to move around? You don’t want to spend the time, energy and money at an event if she can’t handle it. And I am not alone – this reaction is typical of a lot of families.”
In the middle of all the skating, goals, saves and hits typically seen in a Whalers game, Kinjorski and her family discovered a safe and affordable place they could go and have fun as an entire family.
“We went to the game and she did great,” she said. “There were a lot of wide open spaces where she could walk, we found some items she could eat and Gabby really enjoyed herself.”
And as any family living with a person with autism knows, since Gabby had fun, the entire family had an enjoyable evening. Kinjorski hopes to share her positive experience with other families who deal with autism on August 7.
“I’m excited for other people to have the same experience and find another positive family activity where everyone can be who they are,” she said. “As a family of six with a child with special needs, I often wonder what family activity we can all do together where we all feel welcome. Sometimes, something as simple as going to church can be difficult. On August 7th, the autism community will experience the same welcome my family received last year and their attendance will support a charity that will ultimately support them back.”
Tickets for the “Alumni Score for Autism Charity Hockey Game” are $10 and are good for admission to the meet-and-greet autograph session and the game with proceeds going to the Hope for Autism Foundation.
The meet-and-greet autograph session begins at 2:30pm and fans must have a ticket to participate. Season ticket holders will receive a ticket to the Alumni Game as part of their season ticket package. As a thank you for the fans’ support of the game, Alumni Game ticket stubs can be redeemed for a free ticket to the Whalers home opener on Saturday, September 25 against Barrie. Tickets for the event are on sale now by stopping by the Compuware Arena Box Office or calling 734-453-8400.