When hockey becomes a gift to share
This article ran in the Providence Journal (www.providencejournal.com) on December 25, 2012
John GilloolyJournal Sports Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN — His eyes are wide open with wonderment — just like a little kid on Christmas morning.
But Bryce Lavalla doesn’t need to wait for Santa’s annual appearance. He has the URI men’s club hockey team for six months out of the year.
“These guys do so much for him,” said Kevin Lavalla as he watches his son follow the every move of a recent URI practice at the Boss Arena.
“He doesn’t take his eyes off them.”
This is a tale of giving, but not just Christmas giving.
It’s the story of how for nine years now from September to early March a hockey team has enriched the life of a young man with special needs. And in the process the players’ lives are richer in all the important ways that don’t show up on the scoreboard.
Bryce Lavalla is a 23-year-old East Greenwich resident with Down syndrome.
He is an accomplished athlete in his own right with a host of Special Olympics medals hanging on his bedroom wall.
But from a young age, he also enjoyed watching others play sports, whether in person or on TV.
“He likes the sports that have a goal or a basket at each end. He likes watching the action going back and forth,” said Kevin Lavalla about his son.
His father is a Bryant University graduate, and Bryce had been a regular at Bryant men’s and women’s basketball games for years.
But one day in the fall of 2004 he walked into the Boss Arena and his life changed.
“The lady who took care of Bryce after school until his mother came home from work was a wonderful woman. We called her ‘Wonderful Dottie,’ ” said Kevin Lavalla. “She wouldn’t let Bryce just sit around and watch TV. She was always looking for something for him to do. She didn’t know anything about hockey, but one day they were driving past URI and she saw the hockey rink. She said let’s go in and see what’s happening in there.”
A love affair was born.
Read the full article at Providence Journal Online