Originally published on KOHA's blog on Jan. 31, 2017

This past weekend, KOHA along with the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL) hosted our 5th Annual "Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism" and raised over $10,500 for the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research (a program of ROI, Inc.) located in Portage, MI. Thank you to our partners, sponsors and hockey community for once again coming together to support a terrific event.

As successful as the event was once again thanks to our sponsors and our hockey family, we stumbled on a pretty awesome story (and an even more amazing set of goalie pads!).

As the event day was winding down, we noticed these up in the lobby at Wings West:

We decided to share the picture on our Facebook page with the hopes of letting their owner know how very cool (and timely) we thought they were!


The owner saw them and commented to thank us for sharing. His name is Shane and we asked him for their story. Here is what he sent via Facebook messenger:


"Story behind the pads: About a year or so ago we got confirmation that my boy, our only child, is autistic. While we had a hard time with it at first he is still my little buddy. I play net a lot at Lawson, Wings West, in port Huron for the Prowlers, Grand Rapids for theLakers, down in Tennessee, and have been to a few camps for the Walleye in Toledo, so I figured traveling so much to play would be a perfect platform to help raise some awareness for autism. I take every opportunity I can to talk about the pads and explain to everyone how it is not a disability, merely a special ability that not everyone has. The goal is to help everyone understand, not just for my son, but all the families and people affected by autism. I got with the pro rep at Brian's custom goalie and worked out a design on photoshop. We talked about wanting every piece of gear different to represent how everybody with autism is completely different, nobody the same. 10 weeks later the pads were done and I have just started wearing them. I have gotten a lot of compliments and quite a few opportunities to spread the word. Also quite a few messages on social media through Instagram and my YouTube channel expressing gratitude for making the set. I always let them know the pleasure is mine and it's an honor to support the cause."


Shane also shared more (TOTALLY AWESOME) pictures:

THANK YOU, Shane, for sharing both your story and your love for your "Little Buddy."




We all know that the holidays, for some, aren't always happy. It can be a challenge for parents to help their children not only understand, but participate in, helping those that need extra support during the holidays.

Two KOHA teams joined forces to help make the holidays a little brighter for some local families. KOHA's 12U AA K-Wings and our 10U Squirt B Bronco Gold teams came together and adopted three families through Volunteers of America, Michigan:

    -- A single mom with two kids who can no longer work due to chronic degenerative condition,
    -- A family of five, where mom has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and,
    -- A family of 5 whose youngest (4) has autism.

    They purchased household items like comforters & bath towels, personal items such as hats, boots, gloves, long johns, and pajamas, as well as some toys and age-appropriate gifts for the children in each family to open and enjoy on Christmas morning.

    In a post on Facebook, one of the 12U AA K-Wings moms, Rebecca Bauer, said, "Teaching our kids to give back and be thankful for all they have. Landon's hockey team adopted three families for Christmas this year. I took him shopping for items like gloves, socks and deodorant. What a wonderful experience for these young boys. It makes my heart happy to know that these less fortunate families will have a Merry Christmas. Kudos to KOHA K-Wings and Bronco families for making this happen."

    The two teams had a fun on-ice scrimmage, and then the families enjoyed pizza - and each other - while they wrapped the gifts they'd purchased to help those less fortunate than themselves have a brighter holiday.

    Thank you to the coaches and managers that helped coordinate this, the parents that helped shop and wrap, and our boys that wanted to help local families that needed some holiday cheer! We are so thankful to have such wonderful families in our program - and we are so proud of all of you. #KOHAcares





    KOHA's mission is to provide every boy and girl in southwest Michigan the opportunity to enjoy and excel at the game of hockey. We know that our members (and potential members) are in various stages of their commitment to hockey. Hopefully the information below can help parents navigate what's offered and make the best hockey choices for their family.

    How do I get my child started with hockey/skating?

    Learn To Skate and Beginning Hockey questions answered here.

    Where should my child skate once they've completed Beginning Hockey?
    After completing Beginning Hockey, if your child is 8 or under, they would move into the age-appropriate (6U or 8U) program for the next season. If they're 9 or older, the best fit would likely be our House C program (see below) to continue to apply those skills learned throughout Beginning Hockey.

    Our 6U and 8U programs are weekend only programs - ice times are generally in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-October through mid-March. We have small rosters, run station-based practices, and have the KOHA Skills Team on the ice with these programs throughout the season. Our focus is on player development, and encourage all players to try the goalie position throughout their time in 8U. We typically have about 36-40 kids on the ice at a time in these programs for 60 minutes at a time. On game days, we set up the cross-ice boards, and we have refs for 8U game days (coaches run the 6U game days).

    Below is a breakdown of the programs offered by KOHA after 8U and some of the differences between them. This organizational chart is to help you make an informed decision about where to sign your child up for the 2017/18 hockey season. We hope you'll find this helpful in making the best choice for child's hockey development. If you have any further questions regarding any of the programs offered by KOHA, please feel free to contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Please note: for 2017/18 season, 2009 birth years MUST play age appropriate in our 8U program; 2005 birth years MUST play age appropriate at the PeeWee level.


    Our K-Wings Travel (A/AA) programs are TRYOUT teams that play in the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League. Typically these teams practice 3 times/week (including one skills night) with games on the weekends, and anywhere from 2-4 tournaments (plus Districts), depending on the age group. Teams travel primarily within the state of Michigan, but do sometimes travel for an out-of-state tournament, typically in Ohio, Indiana or Illinois.
    Tryouts are held in the spring, and are open to anyone. The tryout schedule for the 2017/18 season will be posted in March, 2017. Some coaches typically hold bootcamps/team building events at the end of August, and regular practice begins after Labor Day.

    TRAVEL A/AA - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam, JV)
    Season length - September thru mid-March
    Travel - Throughout Michigan and beyond
    Experience - Competitive level athlete
    League - LCAHL (Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League)
    Practices - 3 per week (12 practice/month)
    Games - 45-55. Detroit-based league. 4 tournaments
    Sign up - Tryout sport, best players chosen from tryouts
    Cost - Approx $2,200-$2,800


    Our Bronco House B programs are DRAFTED teams that play in the Adray League. Registration for this program, as required by Michigan Amateur Hockey Association rules, is open to ANYONE that wants to register. The drafts at each age division are monitored by a MAHA District 6 Chairperson assigned to help ensure our teams are balanced, and our drafts are conducted fairly. Our Bronco teams typically practice 3 times per week (including one skills night) with games on the weekends, as well as 2 tournaments, plus Districts and League tournaments. House B teams play primarily in West Michigan (including areas north of Grand Rapids), although may travel to Detroit or South Bend for a tournament. Evaluation skates are held at the end of August, and teams are DRAFTED generally in the beginning of September, with practices beginning right around the second week of September.

    HOUSE B - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam)
    Season length - September thru mid-March
    Travel - West Michigan based league (Grand Rapids central)
    Experience - Above average House C recreational player
    League - ACHL (Adray Community Hockey League)
    Practices - 3 per week (12 practices/month)
    Games - 30-35. Mostly West Michigan. 2 tournaments
    Sign up - Open sign-ups to all. Teams drafted.
    Cost - Approx. $2,200-$2,500


    The House C program is our "Weekend Warrior" program. Open registration, and teams play other teams within KOHA within the same age division. A mix of practices and games are held on Saturdays and Sundays only from mid-October through the beginning of March. The first 2-4 skates are treated as evaluation skates, and then a DRAFT is held at each age division. It is always our intent to create balanced teams so that every child has fun and enjoys coming to the rink every weekend.

    HOUSE C - (Squirt, PeeWee, Bantam)
    Season length - October thru mid-March
    Travel - None, all local arenas
    Experience - Recreational player
    League - KOHA (Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association)
    Practices - Saturday and Sunday only (1 hr each day, except game days)
    Games - 14-18, Varies by division, all local
    Sign up - Open sign-ups to all. Teams drafted.
    Cost - Approx. $700



    KOHA Membership,

    As many of you know, for the past four seasons, Chris Brassard has served as KOHA’s Skating Skills Director. Brassard played professionally across the US and in Germany. While having worked as a hockey skills director/instructor for many years, he most recently has been involved in the Graeme Townshend National Hockey Development school delivering programs designed by NHL skating and skills coaches. Aside from working with KOHA as our Skating Skills Director, Brassard is also in his fourth season with the WMU Stallions (Club) as their head coach.

    Brassard has led our House B and Travel Team Skills Nights this season with an intensive skating-development focus and initiative and has agreed to take a greater role that we believe will continue to positively impact our players and their experience this season.

    Our ADM Director, David Killip, has stepped down, effective December 7, 2016, to focus on completing his Masters Degree at WMU while continuing his duties as the Player Development Director for the WMU Bronco Hockey Team. As a result, the KOHA Board of Directors has asked Brassard to finish the 16/17 season as KOHA’s Interim Hockey Director. He will assume many of the ADM Director duties, as well as serve as a resource and mentor for all of our coaches while continuing to help skating development on the ice. He will be working with all of our coaches and players at every level from Learn-to-Skate all the way through to JV and will continue to improve our skating curriculum and progression to increase the overall experience and development of our players.

    Our Mission, Vision, and Values are outlined on our website on the About Us page, but to set the framework for our strategy, our Mission is to provide every boy and girl in southwest Michigan the opportunity to enjoy and excel at the game of hockey and our Vision is to be a regional hockey destination and a national leader in youth hockey.

    We know you have choices when it comes to your youth hockey experience, and we appreciate you choosing KOHA to help your player continue to love our great game.


    KOHA Board of Directors




    Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism
January 28, 2017 @ Wings West Ice Arena

    The Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL) and the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) are once again partnering with Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research (GLC) to host the 5th annual Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism event to raise funds for autism treatment and build autism awareness in our community. 

    Proceeds from the event will benefit Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research whose mission is to partner with individuals and families affected by autism to improve their quality of life through effective and efficient diagnosis, assessment, and behaviorally-based treatment.

    Did you know?

    • Autism is the fastest growing disability
    • 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism
    • Boys are nearly five times as likely than girls to have autism
    • A child can be diagnosed with autism as early as 18 months
    • The average diagnosis of autism is 4 years of age
    • Autism-related costs average $60,000 a year per family
    • Autism services cost U.S. citizens $232-262 billion annually


    Your support will greatly impact children diagnosed with autism and their families.



    GOLD LEVEL SPONSORS - Name/Logo on website and event/promotion announcements.


    SILVER LEVEL SPONSORS - Name included on webpage & post-event thank you.


    BRONZE LEVEL SPONSORS - Name included in post-event thank-you


    All proceeds and sponsorship funds from the Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism event will be used for outpatient services and program materials.
    A child receiving one day of “outpatient” autism treatment typically costs $300 - $800. Some families do not have the autism benefit available through their insurance carrier (personal and too costly or through employer who may be self-funded) and are burdened with this expense. Other families may have a co-pay ranging from $20 - $60 each visit; their child may be seen five times a week: thus, incurring $100 - $300/week expense.
    Through the Youth Hockey Fights for Kids with Autism event, we can help our local families pay for these needed services. Every donation makes a difference in the life of a child. Thank you for your continued support!

    To discuss sponsorship opportunities, please contact:
    Frank Noonan                                                                            Stephanie Dukesherer
    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it                                                                  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
    KOHA, Director of Business Operations                                                        KOHA, Marketing & Communications Director

    SWMHSHL Commissioner                                                                            Autism Event Committee Chairperson



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