GRAD RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids boy with one hand is honing his hockey skills with the help of a Paralympian who is just like him.
“He lost his right (hand) and my lost hand is left,” 5-year-old Calvin GerkeGreen of Grand Rapids said.
Calvin’s coach and mentor, Todd Pasick, is best known as ‘Hockey Todd.’
“I’m called Hockey Todd because I’m a former Paralympian, world silver medalist in hockey and I started my story out at 6 years old,” Pasick said.
Pasick is an amputee and role model, passionate about inspiring kids with disabilities.
“When I went to school and I told all the kids I want to be a hockey player they said, ‘Oh no, you can’t be a hockey player, you only have one arm,'” Pasick said.
It didn’t stop him, just like it isn’t stopping Calvin — who was born with a limb difference — from taking up things like hockey and the violin.
News 8 joined Pasick and Calvin on the ice Sunday, getting an up-close look at how they grip the hockey stick using a special prosthetic.
“The residual part of the limb plugs into the socket (and) the socket fastens to the stick and then magic happens,” Pasick said.
With the help of his special prosthetic, Calvin keeps up with all the other kids in his hockey league.
Students at the West Michigan Aviation Academy created the hockey prosthetic for Calvin as part of their senior project.
“It’s really cool to see him develop,” student Sithara Nanjappa said. “Beforehand, he had his hockey stick wrapped around right here and he hated it.”
Nanjappa and her two classmates, Samantha Benoit and Leah Kauffman, were at Calvin’s hockey practice Sunday to see the prosthetic in action.
“It’s really nice to see that we made this for him and now he’s actually loving the things that he does,” Nanjappa said.
For Pasick, who has written a book and created a program focused on anti-bullying and inclusion, it’s important to be a role model for kids with disabilities.
“The neatest thing about reaching a child at (Calvin’s) age is if you nourish that desire and you provide encouragement, as opposed to discouragement, anything is possible,” Pasick said. “And you see that with him. he’s incredible.”
When asked what he’ll tackle next, Calvin already has it all figured out.
“Gymnastics and soccer, which I’m already signed up for,” he said.