CHD in the News—All In: Barrier-Free Recreation’s Curling Program

On June 30, The Westfield News/ published a story about CHD’s All In: Barrier-Free Recreation curling event at Amelia Park Arena in Westfield on June 22. Participants learned the technique of curling, a team sport—and an Olympic event—that involves sliding smooth granite stones along a sheet of ice. The following is the story, written by Cliff Clark of The Westfield News. Photos: Mark St. Onge.

All-Abilities Clinic at Westfield Rink Shows “Curling is Truly for Everyone”

WESTFIELD — Jessica Levine with the Center for Human Development is always on the lookout for new ways to provide fulfilling recreational and sporting activities for those with physical and mental disabilities and recently she found one: adaptive curling.

“I am always thinking of ways to modify a sport or activity, especially when there are many limitations on typical sports for those with disabilities,” Levine, who is a therapist with CHD, said about the adaptive curling program she, with the help of others, hosted at Amelia Park Arena on June 22.

And the 18 people that participated really enjoyed the experience with the help of eight volunteers.

“It was a lot of fun. Even more fun than I anticipated,” said Westfield’s Brian Boisvere, who is a paraplegic and plays sled hockey.

“I really enjoyed myself and am thankful for the patience of everyone to learn the technique of curling,” said another participant in the program.

Curling — perhaps best known as a winter Olympics sport — is a team sport that involves sliding smooth granite stones along a sheet of ice. Two teams compete to place their stones as close as possible to a bullseye painted on the ice, and to knock their opponents’ stones away from the points-scoring area. Players can aim their stone by imparting spin as it is “thrown,” and by using special brooms to sweep the ice along its path.

Levine said the day of curling is part of the “All-In” program offered by the CHD that offers adaptive sports and recreation programs, like sled hockey, adaptive rock climbing, swimming, and dance and movement for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities.

She said the idea for a curling program came from a friend and program volunteer who had a “dream” about bringing curling to the Springfield area.

To understand the game, Levine and another CHD volunteer gave it a go at the Petersham Curling Club in north-central Massachusetts.

“We ended up really enjoying ourselves,” Levine said.

Matt Pelletier, a CHD All-In volunteer and a member at Petersham Curling, said: “We were excited to bring curling out to the Pioneer Valley and thrilled to find an amazing group of people who were eager to give it a try. The diversity of the participants shows that curling truly is for everyone.”

After that, with help from the Petersham club and the Colonial Curling Club in Worcester, Levine designed an inclusive program.

“We did this because the game of curling is played differently for those who are blind, in a wheelchair, and those who are able-bodied,” she said.

With the group together at the rink, they went over the rules, practiced, broke off into groups depending on everyone’s ability level, and came together to play a group game, she said.

“It was truly a great time by all,” she said.

Levine said the program was a success because of the efforts of the curling clubs and the staff at Amelia Park Arena.

“We were so excited to be a part of the inclusive curling event, welcoming new people to our sport. I love seeing new folks out on the ice, teaching them about the history of the sport and watching them experience the games,” said Trevor Boylston, a curler with the Colonial club.

Levine said the CHD program is looking forward to working with the curling clubs and Amelia Park Arena next summer.

“It was great having so many supportive people wanting to make sports more inclusive,” Levine said.

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