by Jamie Palatini || AHL On The Beat Archive
Bridgeport Sound Tigers rookie forward Casey Cizikas currently leads the Sound Tigers in assists.
But his biggest assist of the season didn’t come during a game. In fact, there weren’t even any fans in the stands.
When Cizikas slid young Marcello in his wheelchair towards the open net at Webster Bank Arena and watched his new friend knock the puck across the goal line, the AHL rookie cheered as if he had scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals.
In Cizikas’ mind, this goal was just as important.
“These kids don’t get a chance to do something like this very often,” Cizikas said. “If I can put a smile on a kid’s face and help them have a great time on the ice…. It’s definitely a very rewarding feeling to help them out.”
Marcello is just one of the many children from St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services that the Sound Tigers have had an impact on this season. Earlier this year, the Sound Tigers announced a partnership with St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services based in Trumbull, Conn., as part of their Paws For A Cause charitable initiative.
The Feroleto Children’s Development Center at St. Vincent’s works with over 80 children every year that have multiple developmental disabilities and special health care needs.
“We’re blessed to have the opportunity to help these kids out,” said Sound Tigers defenseman Ty Wishart. “They go through a lot of struggles that we can’t even begin to comprehend. Those smiles and good times might be tough to come by, so it’s really great to be able to bring that out in them.”
In late October, the entire Sound Tigers team and coaching staff traveled to the Feroleto Center at St. Vincent’s for Sound Tigers Day, where the team met all of the children at the center and signed jerseys which the children had made for each player on the team.
“It was really important for us as a team to head up to St. Vincent’s and meet all of the kids, just a tremendous experience,” said defenseman Ty Wishart. “Not enough can be said for the staff that work with these great kids. To see them get so excited when we came in and to spend some time with them was great.”
The Sound Tigers are holding events throughout the season to raise money for a new state-of-the-art therapeutic pool. Many of the children at the Feroleto Center have limited mobility and rigid muscles due to their conditions. Treatment in a therapeutic pool helps them to relax those muscles, and it’s one of the few times where they can have the sensation of moving freely.
Earlier this past week, Marcello and a few of his fellow classmates had the chance to move freely across the frozen water at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Cizikas and Wishart stayed around after a Sound Tigers practice and brought the children onto the ice for the first time in their lives. In Wishart’s eyes, the experience was just as meaningful for him as it was for the kids.
“I think it’s a great experience for me on a personal level, Wishart explained. “I’m very lucky to play a sport I’ve loved since I was a little kid and continue that as a profession. Not everyone gets that opportunity, and it really puts everything in perspective. We want to give back to the community in every way we can.”
The Sound Tigers biggest fundraiser for St. Vincent’s will be conducted via the team’s Facebook page the rest of the season. The team announced this past week that they will donate $1 for every fan who “likes” the Official Sound Tigers Fan Site on Facebook. If the team reaches 10,000 “likes”, every fan that participated will receive a free ticket to see the team play the Syracuse Crunch on April 6 later this season. Fans can visit facebook.com/soundtigers or head to soundtigers.com for more information.
“This Facebook campaign is an extension of our commitment to working with St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services,” said Sound Tigers president Howard Saffan. “All it takes is a simple click of the mouse to join us in support of a great organization in our community.”