For the past five years, SABAH has had the wonderful privilege of watching Lylian Webster grow from a shy and timid girl into an outgoing and independent young lady. Beautiful and kind, Lylian now exudes confidence and poise, as she diligently practices each week to improve her skating skills at the Hamburg Town Rink.
At just 11 years old, Lylian continues to overcome challenges, including visual impairments, to make incredible progress each season. While Lylian took her first steps on the ice as a cautious six year old, she was quickly moved into the intermediate group at Hamburg where she continues to thrive alongside her fellow SABAH athletes. Her efforts are faithfully supported by her devoted mom and grandparents, as well as her dedicated volunteer partner, Mike Brown. Each week, Lylian and her family arrive early enough to cheerfully greet the other SABAH athletes and their families. They also routinely provide support in the skate room, participate in the Skate-A-Thon, and assist with costumes.
As Lylian prepares for her 5th Celebration on Ice show, we continue to watch her grow and mature into a role model for other young SABAH athletes. Because of her dedication, as well as her compassion and support for her friends at the Hamburg Town Rink, SABAH is pleased to name Lylian as the December Athlete of the Month.
November Athlete of the Month
Since 1995, SABAH has enjoyed the joyful spirit and enthusiastic attitude of Dan Yager. As a 33 year old SABAH, veteran, Dan is an inspirational role model for other SABAH athletes. Each week throughout the season, Dan comes to the Riverside Rink with tremendous eagerness and a strong work ethic. With the support of his volunteer partner and nephew, Jimmy Meyer, Dan diligently works to improve his skills and to skate as fast as he possibly can.
When Dan began his journey with SABAH 22 years ago, he started in the Beginner Group at the Lafayette Rink on Tuesday evenings. Throughout his time with SABAH, he progressed from novice skater to the Advanced Group, now at the Riverside Rink. Dan’s skills also improved to the point where he became a capable volunteer for SABAH’s School Day Adaptive Ice Skating program. Prior to his current employment at People, Inc., Dan volunteered on a weekly basis for non-weight bearing children in the School Day program.
As a SABAH athlete, Dan is a favorite among his peers. Each week, he keeps his fellow athletes motivated with his optimism and sense of humor. Dan also has a great memory and often reminisces with his friends about many of the events that happened when he was a younger SABAH athlete.
Dan has enjoyed prior awards with SABAH, as he was named a SABAH Ambassador in 2009 and honored with the Emily Hermance Spirit Award in 2013. For his continued determination and dedication, we are now pleased to honor Dan as the 2017 October Athlete of the Month.
SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for October is the strong and ruggedly handsome, Gabe Venditti from the Niagara University program. Although Gabe has a tough exterior, the 15 year old SABAH athlete is also one of SABAH’s most helpful participants. Last year, along with his volunteer partner Harry Steinwald, Gabe took it upon himself to assist first year skater, Liam O’Donnell. Gabe noticed that the 7 year old skater was taking his first steps on the ice and immediately came to his rescue. He also enlisted Harry to help support Liam by positioning themselves on either side of the new SABAH athlete. Together, they each took a hand and gently skated around the ice with Liam.
At just 15 years old, it might be hard to believe that Gabe has been with SABAH for 13 years. But Gabe began in the Niagara University program when he was just two years old! In Gabe’s earliest years with SABAH, he was a fun and feisty toddler who wavered between completely happy to completely resistant. Yet, now as a young adult, Gabe is a delightful teenager who serves as a role model to his fellow participants in Niagara’s Group 1. “Gabe has grown up so much over the years,” states Executive Director Sheila O’Brien. “He is now one of the most helpful and engaging participants at the Niagara Rink. While he appears to be a tough young man on the outside, he has a very kind and compassionate side to him that already makes him a leader at the rink.”
SABAH continues to be grateful for Gabe’s hard work, commitment, and support for his fellow athletes in the Niagara program. In celebration of Gabe’s growth and dedication over the past 13 years, we are pleased to name him as the 2017 October Athlete of the Month.
September Athlete of the Month
SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for September is a true role model for individuals challenged by disability. Katie Mruk began skating with SABAH in 1993 when she was just 8 years old. Determined and dedicated, Katie has continually grown stronger and more capable as a SABAH athlete. Katie’s success is also largely due to the strong support and love she receives from her sister and volunteer instructor, Kristen. Each week, the close-knit sisters show up at the Northtown Center at Amherst to work on their skating skills and to enjoy the camaraderie and friendships they have made with their fellow Group 3 skaters. The popular pair enjoys their time together, but they also both encourage and support the other athletes in the Sunday morning program.
Katie’s dedication to SABAH doesn’t end with her participation as a SABAH athlete. After making tremendous progress with her skating skills over the years, Katie made the decision to give back to others challenged by disability by becoming a SABAH volunteer. Each week during the fall and winter, Katie volunteers for SABAH’s School Day Adaptive Ice Skating program. Along with her friends from ASPIRE, Katie provides valuable volunteer support for the children who attend SABAH’s School Day program. Katie continues to be a very kind and thoughtful volunteer who patiently helps teach children with special needs how to skate each Wednesday morning throughout the season.
Katie is also inspirational for her genuine enthusiasm for skating and, most especially, for the Celebration on Ice show. Her positive outlook and excitement are a tremendous encouragement for other athletes and volunteers. In honor of her commitment to SABAH for nearly 25 years, we are pleased to name Katie Mruk as the 2017 September Athlete of the Month.
Each week during the SABAH season, Ryan Koteras enthusiastically leads the warm up exercises for SABAH athletes and volunteers in Group 3. A born leader, Ryan demonstrates the stretching routine for his fellow athletes in the advanced group and then eagerly practices his skating skills. Although Ryan is only 10 years old, he began with SABAH when in 2010 when he was just 3 years old. Since that time, Ryan has progressed from the beginning group to an independent skater in the most advanced group. SABAH’s Director of Programming, Carrie Drabik, states, “Ryan has grown into a tremendous asset for Group 3. His optimistic attitude and willingness to work hard have made him a positive role model for other athletes challenged by disability.”
Ryan has also become a talented hockey player in SABAH’s Adaptive Ice Hockey program. Through his years of practice and hard work, Ryan was able to join the Adaptive Hockey program in 2013. Even at his young age, Ryan finds great joy in playing hockey and has become a talented player in the program.
Ryan’s progress has been noticed by many, including his devoted family. Ryan’s mom, Gina, states, “Ryan has become so confident in everything he does because of SABAH, from his classes in school to making friends. If there was one quote I could come up with from Ryan, I would have to say it is, ‘I got this, mom. I got this.’ Thank you SABAH, and all of his helpers, for giving him that confidence.” In honor of Ryan’s dedication and hard work over the past seven years, SABAH is very pleased to honor him as the August Athlete of the Month.
SABAH’s July Athlete of the Month, Sam Perison, has been named one of the featured coaches of the 2017 Kickstock Kickball Festival. During the past season, Sam skated in SABAH’s Saturday morning program at the Hamburg Rink with volunteer, Brian Finnerty. As a result of the friendship that grew between the pair throughout the season, Brian invited Sam to be an honorary coach for his Kickstock Kickball Team, the Motley Krew. Sam eagerly accepted the offer to reunite with his volunteer, but the tide will turn as Sam will be the one encouraging Brian to give his best effort during the annual tournament on July 8, 2017.
Although Sam now skates in the Hamburg morning program, the 15 year old student at first began in SABAH’s School Day Adaptive Ice Skating program in 2011. Through his perseverance and work ethic, Sam continually improved during the four years he attended the program with his classmates from the Cantilician Center. Following his participation in the School Day program, Sam wanted to continue with SABAH in the weekend program at Hamburg. From the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, Sam was paired with his weekly partner, Brian. Through Brian’s encouragement and the support of the Hamburg crew, Sam continues to make great progress as he perseveres through visual impairment and the challenges of Cerebral Palsy. Each week, SABAH’s Hamburg team witnesses Sam make considerable progress toward his dream of playing hockey. With great joy and appreciation, SABAH is pleased to honor Sam Perison as the July Athlete of the Month!
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.