When Zakarai Schneider (age 14) and Abby Malek (15) of the CT STORM special hockey team in Bridgeport CT were presented a possible opportunity to meet star and hero – NY Ranger Henrik Lundqvist – we all thought we must be dreaming??!!
Though the generosity of the Henrik Lunqvist Foundation and Chase Bank/NY Rangers, these athletes were able to see a big dream come true and meet their favorite player/hero Henrik!
Throughout Abby and Zakarai’s hockey careers, they have overcome many life’s challenges to be special needs hockey athletes with the CT STORM. For example, Zakarai was born with many intellectual and physical disabilities, including Apraxia (limited verbal ability), Down Syndrome/Mental Retardation, sensory deficiencies, low muscle tone, and has other profound communication disorders. At his early years, it was questionable if he would be able to walk – let alone skate. Zakarai’s projected life expectancy is about that of his peers. Despite these and other limitations, Zakarai and Abby disabled players have both demonstrated perseverance beat the odds and though the love for hockey pushed themselves to be inspirational hockey team mates.
Mark Schneider, parent. “From the moment we walked into the Rangers facility, it was first class. Mr. Martella from the NYR personally greeted us, he coordinated it perfectly, sat with us and entertained us the entire time. Ms. Bialous from the Lundqvist Foundation was so amazing she kept in touch each step of the way and made sure our experience was fantastic. I must say after the event in the parking lot the mom’s shed some tears of joy for the kids. We were all choked up. The CT STORM team players and coaches were all buzzing the next day looking for photos.”
Henrik was so kind, friendly, patient, and charming, it was great – he is really a role model professional athlete in all aspects.