HCN News & Notes

Springfield Thunderbirds to Host Third Annual Sensory-friendly Game on Feb. 26

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds, in conjunction with the Center for Human Development (CHD) and Springfield College’s Department of Occupational Therapy, will host their third annual sensory-friendly game on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3:05 p.m., when the Thunderbirds host the Charlotte Checkers.

The game presentation will feature decreased stimulation, including no goal horn or noise meters, decreased microphone and music volume, no strobing lights, and consistent lighting throughout the game and pregame, as well as two ‘cool-down stations,’ quiet areas on the concourse and main entry level of the MassMutual Center, away from the seating bowl, and a ‘sensory story’ booklet and other supportive items for guests.

Since their inaugural season in 2016, the Springfield Thunderbirds have been partners with CHD, celebrating 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, through Hockey Fights Cancer and other initiatives, 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.

“We are very excited to make this year’s sensory-friendly game the most impactful one yet,” Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa said. “Our longtime partners at CHD have always shared in our mission to provide an unforgettable experience to those who otherwise might not ever have the opportunity to comfortably enjoy a Thunderbirds game. Their support, along with the efforts of Springfield College, means so much to our organization and to the families who attend this game each year.”

Ben Craft, vice president of Community Engagement at CHD, noted that “CHD and the T-Birds started the sensory game two seasons ago, and it quickly became a favorite among families and fans who may not otherwise have been able to fully enjoy the excitement of hockey in Springfield. Inclusion and opportunity are at the core of CHD’s mission, and in our strong partnership with the Thunderbirds, we are together demonstrating that care finds a way.”

Added Lori Vaughn, professor and chair of the Springfield College Occupational Therapy program, “the Occupational Therapy program at Springfield College is once again thrilled to be part of this wonderful initiative with the Thunderbirds and CHD. The sensory-friendly game allows individuals with sensory sensitivities to be present and engaged in Thunderbirds hockey, which might otherwise not be possible. Along with the modifications the Thunderbirds have put in place, the Student Occupational Therapy Association club at Springfield College will be volunteering in the cool-down stations with a variety of sensory-friendly activities they have planned to support children and families.”

Fans with questions regarding the sensory-friendly game can direct them to the Thunderbirds front office at (413) 739- 4625 or by visiting www.springfieldthunderbirds.com.