In conjunction with CHD and Springfield College’s Department of Occupational Therapy, the Springfield Thunderbirds hosted a sensory friendly game on Sunday, March 8 as the T-Birds hosted the Hartford Wolf Pack at 3:05 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.
During the event, the game presentation featured decreased stimuli in microphone, music and goal horn volume and consistent lighting throughout the seating bowl. There was also sensory story and other supportive items made available by the Springfield College OT Program, who also facilitated two quiet Cool-Down Stations on the concourse and main entry level of the MassMutual Center.
“This initiative by the Thunderbirds and CHD allows individuals with sensory sensitivities to experience a hockey game, which would typically be a challenge without modification,” said Lori Vaughn, Professor and Chair of the Springfield College OT Program.
During the game, the Thunderbirds presented Vaughn and the Springfield College OT Program with a CHD Game Changer award for their hard work in making this event possible and the positive impact they continually make as they send forth rising OT professionals.
“Helping people of all backgrounds and abilities enjoy positive life experiences is a big part of fulfilling our mission,” said Ben Craft, Vice President of Community Engagement for CHD. “For us, the opportunity to support a Sensory-Friendly game is a natural extension of our longstanding relationship with the Thunderbirds, and we appreciate the help, expertise, and flexibility that the team and Springfield College have provided to make this a game to remember for fans.”
Since their inaugural season in 2016, the Springfield Thunderbirds have remained longtime partners with CHD. The partnership celebrates community-focused initiatives and difference makers in the Western Mass community. At each T-Birds home game, a “Game Changer” award is presented to a member of the crowd who has bettered his or her community in ways both large and small. Additionally, the two organizations have partnered to create an opportunity for all – including those with physical limitations – to enjoy the game of hockey with the introduction of the CHD Sled Hockey Thunderbirds. The Springfield Thunderbirds have also been steadfast supporters of the CHD Cancer House of Hope, which is committed to providing access to free services and therapies that bring comfort, care, strength, resilience and hope to patients with cancer and their loved ones.
“After seeing other professional sports teams take on this similar game experience, we agreed that a Sensory-Friendly night would be a unique and meaningful way to present a T-Birds game, with the great support of CHD,” said Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa. “An ordinary hockey game is not very conducive to those with sensitivities, but our hope is that by changing elements of the game presentation, we can introduce an entirely new audience to this great game. This idea was a no-brainer for all of us.”