When Abby Yates arrives at SABAH, the rink instantly brightens. Abby has an angelic face and a warm, wide smile that captures the hearts of both SABAH volunteers and her fellow athletes. Although she is quite shy and nonverbal, Abby is eternally cheerful and kind to those around her. Because of her warmth and optimism, she is always enthusiastically greeted at the door with many hugs and happy faces.
As one of SABAH’s most active athletes, Abby annually participates in two of SABAH’s six programs. Abby first began with SABAH in 1999, when she started participating in the Hamburg weekend program. After many years in the Saturday morning program, she began attending the Adults Fit and Fun program with her group from the Heritage Centers. In both programs, Abby works very diligently to complete each task she is given. Her dedication and hard work has paid off, as she has made tremendous improvements in her skating skills, nutritional knowledge, and physical activity over the years. For her enthusiasm, dedication, and joyful spirit, SABAH is pleased to name Abby Yates as the 2017 June Athlete of the Month.
SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for May is the sweet and delightful Jenny Ruisi from the Northtown Center at Amherst Sunday morning program. Although Jenny began with SABAH over eleven years ago, she was forced to take a three year absence for medical reasons. While Jenny’s friends at SABAH missed her while she was recovering, they were happily reunited in 2015 when Jenny was cleared to return. Once back, Jenny quickly returned to skating independently and attempting each new skill with determination and enthusiasm.
Jenny is also a very kind and compassionate SABAH athlete. Jenny always looks for ways to help her friends in Northtown Center’s Group 3. If anyone around her is missing a partner, Jenny will quickly step forward to offer her assistance.
SABAH is pleased to recognize Jenny for her tremendous determination, courage, and kindness in the face of adversity. As a role model for her fellow athletes at the Northtown Center at Amherst, SABAH is pleased to name Jenny Ruisi as the 2017 May Athlete of the Month.
One of the greatest outcomes of SABAH’s programs is when we witness our athletes overcoming their fears. Rachel Connor is a SABAH athlete who openly admits that falling on the ice can be scary. Yet, in spite of her apprehension, she arrives at the Riverside Rink every Tuesday evening eager to practice her skating skills. Rachel, who skates with one of the program’s most positive and encouraging volunteers, Michael Franz, began the year determined to reach the goal of letting go of her walker. For the first time this season, Rachel began to skate independently and often starts skating before her volunteer is on the ice!
Although Rachel only began skating with SABAH in 2015, the 26 year old participant has made tremendous progress in her two years in the Riverside program. Each week, Rachel diligently listens to her volunteer and will try any new skill that is part of the day’s agenda. And, on the rare occasion that she falls, she bounces right back up and keeps going. As a model of perseverance and dedication, SABAH is very pleased to name Rachel Connor as the 2017 April Athlete of the Month.
2017 March Athlete of the Month
SABAH athlete, Meghan Richardson, is closing in on nearly two decades with SABAH! The sweet and reserved 22 year old has been skating in the Niagara University program since 1998. Meghan is a hard working SABAH athlete who prefers the assistance of a volunteer to a walker. “Meghan strives for independence,” states Executive Director, Sheila O’Brien. “She pushes the walker away, insisting to hold on to her mom and a volunteer. She very much wants to gain more strength and freedom.” Meghan is also one of SABAH’s most loveable athletes, as the charming 22 year old will softly kiss your hand and share her kind smile with her friends at the rink.
Meghan’s positive attitude is also a direct result of the love and attention of her devoted family. Meghan’s mom, Cyndi Richardson, faithfully brings Meghan to SABAH each week and skates by her side during the entire SABAH session. Her brothers, Nick and Sean, are similarly committed to Meghan and often volunteer with her at the Niagara rink.
Meghan and her family are also known for their strong support of SABAH. Led by Meghan’s dad, Paul, the Richardson’s are always among the highest fundraisers during the annual Skate-A-Thon. For the past three years in a row, Meghan has been the grand prize winner of the Skate-A-Thon!
Meghan continues to bring joy and inspiration to the Niagara University program, as well as support for the entire organization. For all of her efforts, we are very pleased to name Meghan Richardson as the 2017 March Athlete of the Month.
January Athlete of the Month
SABAH athlete Tina Brown, from Hamburg’s Group 1, will lead off the new year as the Athlete of the Month for January! Tina’s positive attitude resonates with all of her fellow skaters on Saturday morning, as she is well known for her hard work and determined spirit. A SABAH veteran of nearly nine years, Tina has continually improved each year as a result of her commitment and perseverance. This year, in particular, Tina has made tremendous progress toward skating independently. Each week, Tina has been steadily overcoming her fear and letting go of her walker.
One of Tina’s most remarkable attributes is her commitment to give back to SABAH and SABAH athletes. Each week during the season, Tina faithfully volunteers for the School Day Adaptive Ice Skating program on Wednesday mornings. With her fellow volunteers from the CAPPS program, Tina works off the ice to organize the skates and helmets for the children in our School Day programs. Always patient and kind, Tina also assists SABAH by picking up the skates and helmets in the locker room after each Wednesday morning session.
For her dedication as both an athlete and a volunteer, SABAH is pleased to name Tina Brown as the January Athlete of the Month.
School Day Adaptive Ice Skating Program
From October through March, students from 28 regional schools attend SABAH’s School Day Adaptive Ice Skating (SDAIS) program. The program, which serves over 400 students challenged by disability, improves skills such as balance and coordination, gross motor skill development, and socialization. Each week, busloads of students enthusiastically arrive at the Riverside Rink to participate in the curriculum based program.
While all of the young participants in the SDAIS make remarkable improvements throughout the season, SABAH’s instructors often notice a student who is especially diligent and hard working. This year, 13 year old Braheim Al-Zinghi from City Honors, has made extraordinary efforts to move from his Rifton Walker to skating independently. Just last week, Braheim conquered his fear and let go of his walker for the entire session. As Braheim states, “I was a little tiny afraid, but I faced my fears and I don’t need the seat (walker) anymore. And it will be alright.” His positive attitude and courage have enabled Braheim to overcome many challenges and make tremendous progress in this season already. Braheim has also become an inspirational role model for his fellow students, as they watch his persistent determination and work ethic. For all of his efforts, SABAH is pleased to honor Braheim Al-Zinghi as SABAH’s December Athlete of the Month.
SABAH is pleased to name the Northtown Center’s Owen Long as the November Athlete of the Month! The 11 year SABAH veteran continues to make tremendous strides with his skating skills, as he works very diligently alongside his volunteer and mom, Dr. Sandra Block. At 14 years old, Owen’s positive attitude and dedication has resulted in his advancement into Group 3. “Owen has worked very hard over the years to build his skills,” states SABAH’s Program Director, Carrie Drabik. “He is very attentive and always happy to be on the ice. As a result, Owen has made dramatic progress since he began with SABAH in 2005.”
In addition to the Weekend Program at the Northtown Center, Owen has also participated in several of SABAH’s other events and programs. He is a regular participant in SABAH’s annual Skate-A-Thon, where he has raised funding for the organization, and has also participated in the Summer Skates and the Adaptive Hockey program. For all of his work and dedication, we congratulate Owen for being named the November Athlete of the Month!
As he begins his 9th season with SABAH, Demetrius Mims continues to beam brightly as he enters the Riverside Rink each week. Demetrius is a dedicated SABAH athlete who is known for his wide smile and cheerful attitude. Just mention his name and Demetrius will turn his head and flash his million dollar smile at you.
Because of his positive attitude and outstanding work ethic, the 28 year old SABAH athlete has made steady progress since he began skating in the Evening program at Riverside Rink. SABAH’s Director of Programming, Carrie Drabik, states, “Demetrius gets stronger with each year. He skates with a walker, but he continues to grow increasingly more stable and steady. His resilience and dedication have fueled his progress, especially over the past several years.” For all of his joyful optimism and perseverance, SABAH is pleased to honor this inspirational athlete as the October Athlete of the Month! Congratulations, Demetrius!
SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for September is one of the brightest and most determined athletes in the Evening and Weekend programs. Mackenzie Bingham exudes optimism and eagerness as she prepares to take the ice on Wednesdays at SABAH’s Niagara University program. Although Mackenzie is visually impaired, she is always determined to overcome her challenges and push herself to her potential. With the help of her volunteer partner, Scott Thompson, Mackenzie takes the ice each week with energy and enthusiasm to learn new skills and routines. In addition to participating in SABAH’s Niagara University program, Mackenzie also worked on her skills at this year’s Summer Skates at the Northtown Center at Amherst. Once again, through hard work and commitment, Mackenzie’s skills further improved over the summer sessions.
As a dedicated athlete who is always happy and optimistic, Mackenzie is a wonderful role model to her fellow SABAH participants. For all of her efforts over the past year, we are pleased to name Mackenzie as SABAH’s September Athlete of the Month!
SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for August is one of the hardest working athletes at the Hamburg Rink. Meet Richard Attea, a 47 year old SABAH athlete who proves that a positive attitude and determination can triumph over most any challenge. Although Richard is one of the more senior athletes at the rink, his courage and resilience combine to make him one of the most improved skaters over the past several years. With his trademark knee pads firmly affixed to his legs, Richard means business when it comes to skating. Richard, fondly known as “Richie” by his SABAH friends, is determined to improve and he takes it very seriously. As a result, he has become a much faster and more capable skater since he began just three year ago. Executive Director Sheila O’Brien states, “Richie proves that you can overcome nearly any challenge at any age. In spite of disability, he decides to learn to skate at 44 years of age. And now, because of his dedication, he is moving around the rink at a fast pace. He should be an inspiration to anyone who faces a difficulty or obstacle.” As one of our most improved athletes, SABAH is pleased to honor Richard Attea as the August Athlete of the Month!