STILLWATER, Minn. (KTVU) - A hockey program in Minnesota helps kids with special needs become part of a team.
Ryan Strobel, who is special needs and non-verbal, found joy on the ice.
"For Ryan as a kid everything takes such effort," said his mother Jill Strobel.
Jill was worried it wouldn't be possible for Ryan to be on the ice. She was concerned he would arrive at the rink and not want to put on the gear or get on the ice. She thought at the very least he could be on the team, and give high fives in the locker room.
Ryan's dad Mike thought it would be a success if Ryan could stay on the ice for 10 minutes.
After Ryan got all his gear on, he was pushed around the rink on a sled by a senior from White Bear Lake High School
To their surprise Ryan spent more than 30 minutes on the ice and enjoyed every second. "He loved it… I was shocked and so thankful," Jill said.
At one point, Ryan was introduced as a new player on the team and all the other players clicked their sticks on the ice to welcome him.
"He gets to be part of something. It was a really great experience," said Jill.
Larry Hendrickson of the Hendrickson Foundation tells KTVU the program gives special needs kids something to look forward to. He says it gives them friends, a sense of belonging and an opportunity to take a risk.
Hendrickson says being involved in the program has been the most rewarding experience of his life. He says, "the real heroes are the kids and families themselves."
The Strobels say they are so thankful for the program.
The Hendrickson Foundation is also involved in programs for veterans. Learn more here.