Building Dreams

Delaware Coach Goes Above And Beyond To Get Every Kid On The Ice

 

There are heroes, and then there are hockey heroes. Chad Everett is a little of both.

As a police detective in suburban Washington, D.C., Everett spends his days keeping the people of Prince George County safe. When his shift at the station ends, he heads to the rink to coach teams in the Delaware Stars organization. 

As we celebrate Local Hockey Heroes on the last day of Hockey Week Across America, it was one selfless act by Everett that singles him out as something more than just a coach.

Everett – or Coach Chad, as he’s better known around Centre Ice Rink in Harrington – met Ryan Roper by happenstance. But it was a moment that would change both of their lives for the better.

Nine-year-old Ryan has mild cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect movement, muscle tone and posture. It affects every person differently, so in Ryan’s case, his legs simply aren’t built for hockey. He plays other sports like baseball and basketball, but the young Washington Capitals fan had to settle for watching his sister play from behind the boards. 

That was until Coach Chad took matters into his own hands.

“I just asked his mom why he didn’t play and she explained cerebral palsy and that he wants to skate but can’t really do it,” Everett said. “I kind of just came up with this rig that could take the weight off his legs and build some kind of harness; it just kind of came to me.”

Ryan’s mom, Meghann, remembers that moment differently. 

“We were talking to him about it and his exact words were, ‘I hate to see a kid that loves hockey so much and not be able to play,’” she said.

Everett didn’t waste any time. The 36-year-old coach took about an hour – split up over time – to build something that allowed Ryan to not only get out on the ice and skate, but use a stick at the same time. The bottom is made out of three-inch PVC split in half to form makeshift skis. There’s also a piece of wood across the top with a high bolt that Ryan’s harness connected to take most of the weight off his legs.

What started out as a way for Ryan to get out on the ice has quickly become so much more. 

“Inclusion, one hundred percent inclusion,” said Meghann Roper, who also recognizes the therapeutic aspect of the device. “When he was out there with those kids, they didn’t treat him like he was in a device. They were playing hockey with him, they were skating around him, they were just really happy to have him out there.”

Coach Chad probably never imagined how much his device would benefit Ryan but he built it regardless. Why?

“I’ve always been the kind of guy that knows hockey is for everybody,” Everett said. “If he wants to play, I’m going to do everything I can to get him on the ice. If there’s a kid out there that wants to play, I just want kids on the ice. 

“I was really fortunate growing up in really fantastic programs with amazing coaches. It’s important to me to pass along what I had growing up to give every kid the opportunity to fall in love with this sport.”

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