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03/13/2013 12:01 AM -

The move by the Griffins Youth Foundation to expand its hockey program to high school-age students has been a blessing for players like Travus Thrun and Kylie Lindsey.

Travus Thrun and Kylie Lindsey have little in common, except for one thing – they both love to play hockey.

Both are grateful that they still get to participate in their favorite sport, an opportunity that would not have been available to them if the Griffins Youth Foundation hadn’t expanded its program to include 10th- through 12th-grade students this season.

Travus, who was recently named the Youth Foundation’s Player of the Year, is a cognitively impaired junior at Northview High School. He joined the Youth Foundation in 2004 when he was 10. At the time, the program was in its relative infancy, still the developing dream of many, including coach and then-president Lou Rabaut.

As a unique learner, Travus would likely have been unable to fully participate in a traditional program. The Youth Foundation eliminated the barrier for him to play hockey and gave him the chance to play alongside others his age.

Kylie, meanwhile, is a senior at Wyoming High School, where she gets good grades while balancing her work schedule between two part-time jobs. Her school has no hockey program, so the Youth Foundation gives her the chance to play.

Travus and Kylie are just two examples of students who are benefitting from the Youth Foundation’s decision to expand the program beyond ninth grade.

“When we heard the news, we jumped up and down, screaming with joy in the middle of our living room,” said Travus’ mother, Karen. “The program, which has changed his life for the better, is such a blessing.”

Travus’ introduction to the Youth Foundation came while accompanying his father, Troy, who was one of the first coaches in the program. “He was originally going along for the ride, but then he started playing himself and he just loved it.”

Affectionately nicknamed TNT (Kid Dynamite) by his coach and teammates, Travus slowly but surely learned how to skate in the right direction and how to shoot at the opposing goalie (and not his own). He became an accomplished skater by mimicking his father.

“Playing hockey has not only helped his confidence, it’s also given him a meaningful place to go,” Karen Thrun said. “He’s made a lot of friendships and it provides him a healthy outlet for exercise. It means everything to him.”

Perhaps best of all, the program gives Travus the chance to be one of the kids. “It’s amazing to watch,” his mother adds. “When he puts on his helmet, you would never be able to pick him out.”

The coaches do their best to provide equal opportunities for all skaters.

“Although Travus is a strong and graceful skater, his learning style requires patience and creativity,” his mother said. “There has not been one second in the nine years of playing that he has not been welcomed and celebrated, just the way he is.”

Michelle Lindsey, mother of Kylie, is equally enthusiastic about the program.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful for Kylie,” she said. “She’s come a long ways since she started playing 10 years ago. The coaches have taught her a lot, just like they have with every student.”

Kylie’s introduction to the Youth Foundation program came through Girl Scouts.

She was originally a goalie, but began playing forward about three years ago. “My skating has improved a whole lot since I started,” she said. “It’s also taught me how to work together with others and how to get things done.”

Like Travus, Kylie was thrilled when she learned that high school students were going to be allowed to play. “I’ve made quite a few friends who I can hang out with outside the rink.”

Next year Kylie plans to attend Ferris State University, where she hopes to pursue a degree in the health field. “I’ll try to play club hockey or maybe play in a women’s league,” she said.

It won’t be easy for either Travus or Kylie to say goodbye to a program that has been such a big part of their lives for so long.

“We’re going to hate to see it come to an end,” said Kylie’s mom, Michelle. “Overall, it’s such a wonderful program that it’s going to be sad for all of us.”

“The Youth Foundation has been one of the biggest blessings in our life,” echoed Travus’ mom, Karen. “We are so grateful for the opportunity. We sing the praises of the program to everyone we meet.”

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Grand Rapids Griffins
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Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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