BOSTON (CBS) — On Sunday morning, when most people are still asleep, a special, fearless group of die hard hockey players from across the state are up before the sun skating their way through life.
Meet the East Coast Jumbos, a group of kids and adults with developmental disabilities.
Many have autism or Down syndrome, some are hearing impaired, but when they all hit the ice together all of those issues skate away.
Don’t let their constant smiles, waves, and chuckles fool you.
“We speak softly but we carry a big stick!” says East Coast Jumbo player Kyle Griffin.
Ranging in ages from seven to 44, they’re all a family.
Jumbos left wing Jenna Markow, the only female on the team, loves competing with the guys.
“It’s awesome we all work so well together we are best friends,” says Jenny.
“This program has meant everything in the world,” says Colleen Markow, Jenny’s mom. “It has given her a chance to experience friendship.”
Waltham firefighters, Ray LeBlanc and Jim Perry, founded the Jumbos nine years ago with only five players, two of them being their own autistic kids.
“It’s all about fun. It’s not about winning the Stanley Cup,” says Ray LeBlanc. “This is about having a great time.”
They’re committed to learning the fundamentals. But what they enjoy most is each other.
“For some it’s being part of a team. Others social network off the ice, for my own kids it’s self-esteem,” says East Coast Jumbos mom, Erin Griffin.
Goalie Brendan Griffin says this weekend they’re hosting a hockey fundraiser on Saturday, all to help raise money for the program. “It pays for ice, the tournaments, and jersey jackets,” he says.
When asked if she had a dream team that she would like to play, Jenna quickly answered without hesitation. “Playing the Bruins would be awesome,” she said.
One thing you can never question is their commitment.