June Athlete of the Month – Chase Giambra

He might be small in stature, but Chase Giambra is a show-stopping, 8 year old SABAH athlete whose persuasive charm can get him just about anything he wants.  Although his adorable smile may have gotten him out of some SABAH drills in the past, Chase worked more diligently than ever before to improve his skills this year.  A SABAH athlete for three years, Chase now balances and propels himself much more independently than he did even at the beginning of the season.  “Chase came a long way this year,” states Executive Director, Sheila O’Brien.  “He is ready to fly!”

Chase also has the strong support of his family, including his mom, Michelle, his dad, Geoff, and brothers Jayden and Luke. Their encouragement, and occasional “tough love” nudges, have spurred Chase to put in the effort to become a stronger and more capable SABAH athlete.  They frequently turned Chase’s “I can’t” moments into “I can” moments.  As a result, Chase is thriving and becoming more independent than ever before.  For all of his hard work this year, SABAH is pleased to name Chase Giambra as the June Athlete of the Month!

May Athlete of the Month – Hector Otero

SABAH’s May Athlete of the Month, Hector Otero, celebrated his 20th anniversary with SABAH this past year.  At 49 years old, the SABAH veteran refuses to let his disabilities dampen his enthusiasm.  Although Hector has severe visual impairments and is nonverbal, he is one of SABAH’s most energetic and eager participants!  Hector arrives at the Niagara University program on Wednesday night with more excitement than he can contain.  As he takes the ice, he joyfully begins to tap his walker on the rink to express his eagerness to get started!  Hector is so excited that his dedicated partner of 10 years, Angela Andres, has to calm him down before they can begin the session.  The inseparable partners never stop smiling as they join their friends in Group 1 for an evening of fun and skating.

Hector Otero continues to have a joyful spirit even though he is challenged by significant disabilities.   As a SABAH athlete who is an inspirational model of perseverance and dedication, SABAH is pleased to honor Hector as the May Athlete of the Month.

April Athlete of the Month – Danny Welsh

SABAH’s athlete of the month is the charming and affectionate Danny Welsh from the Town of Hamburg Rink.  At 19 years old, Danny has progressed tremendously throughout his five years with SABAH. In his earliest days with SABAH, Danny was very tentative and afraid to take the ice.  Yet, he persevered and has now become a much more confident skater.  Just last year, Danny’s effort and determination were rewarded with a very successful move from Group 2 to Group 1.

Danny’s growth is also the outcome of a devoted and close-knit family. Each week during the SABAH season, Danny is flanked by his mom, Nora, and 12 year old sister, Rheanna, for the Saturday morning sessions.  Their reassurance and support have provided the foundation for Danny to grow stronger and more capable.  Although Danny is nonverbal, he expresses his appreciation for his family by showering them with love and affection.  Danny also communicates his enjoyment of SABAH through some simple signing and an eagerness to take the ice each week.   His effort and determination, in spite of many obstacles, are an inspiration for all of SABAH’s athletes.  In honor of his persistence and hard work, we are pleased to name Danny Welsh as the April Athlete of the Month.

March Athlete of the Month – Ray Robinson

SABAH’s Athlete of the Month is a standout hockey player in the Adaptive Hockey Program, as well as a weekend participant at the Northtown Center at Amherst.  A SABAH athlete for 10 years, Ray Robinson, is one of the hardest working athletes in the hockey program.  Ray is an offensively minded player who lifts up his team with his gritty determination and hard work. Ray also lets out his trademark scream with a lightning slapshot that usually flies past goalies. “Ray is probably a 20 plus goal scorer,” states SABAH hockey coach Aaron Deutschman. “He is an aggressive player who carries the team offensively.”

As a participant in the weekend program at the Northtown Center at Amherst, Ray is known to bust out his dance moves on Sunday mornings.  The energetic SABAH athlete also is an avid sports fan who knows the complete NFL and NHL schedules for the upcoming week.  For all of his energy and enthusiasm, SABAH is pleased to name Ray Robinson as the March Athlete of the Month!

February Athlete of the Month – Aaron Holland

SABAH is pleased to name Aaron Holland as the February Athlete of the Month.  The 28 year old SABAH athlete has been a faithful participant in the Riverside Rink Evening program for 20 years!  Aaron is one of SABAH’s most dedicated and committed athletes, as he almost never misses a Tuesday night session.  While on the ice, he works very diligently to improve his skating capabilities and to learn new skills.  Aaron is especially talented at the one foot glide and capably demonstrates this skill to his 10 year volunteer partner, Aaron Deutschman.

One of the traits that everyone loves about Aaron Holland is that he is extremely social and talkative.  Each week, Aaron is eager to talk to anyone on or off the ice!  The “Aarons” are also well known for their ongoing conversations about work, life, and fashion during the weekly sessions.  Aaron Deutschman especially loves hearing about Aaron Holland’s fashion choices, as he is a well-dressed SABAH athlete who faithfully wears a dress shirt and tie to his job at Cooperative Employment.

Aaron Holland is also a faithful friend to Dan Yager, as he offers him a ride to the Riverside Rink each Tuesday.  Aaron and his mom continue to be supportive of other SABAH athletes through their efforts to share rides and assist others who need their help. Their efforts are symbolic of the relationships that grow and thrive as a result of participation in SABAH.

For all of his hard work and dedication for two decades, SABAH is delighted to name Aaron Holland as the February Athlete of the Month!  Congratulations Aaron!

January Athlete of the Month – Sam Cumbo

SABAH’s Athlete of the Month for January is the sweet and shy, Sam Cumbo.  Currently in his 8th season with SABAH, Sam skates in the Niagara University program with his new volunteer, Kathy McFee. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working with Sam,” states Kathy.  “He makes my day every time I see him!”

At 41 years of age, Sam is working harder than ever before!  Sam’s trust in Kathy has made him more eager and excited to skate, as he works very diligently to impress his new volunteer partner.  Sam’s skating has noticeably improved each week and he is now to the point where he only uses the walker for part of the session.

Although Sam is a man of few words, he has a heart filled with compassion and love for everyone he meets.  During SABAH’s Niagara University program, Sam treats all of his friends with great kindness and even makes handmade gifts for his instructors, volunteers, and friends.  This past season, Sam made beautiful beaded necklaces for many of his favorite friends!

Because of Sam’s great progress this season and his kindness to all of his SABAH friends, we are very thrilled to name him SABAH’s January Athlete of the Month.  Congratulations Sam!

December Athlete of the Month

We are thrilled to introduce you to our December Athlete of the Month, Juliet Benz.  The beautiful 17 year old SABAH veteran has been participating in the Hamburg Rink program for 11 years!  Always smiling, Juliet maintains a slow and steady philosophy as she skates with her father, Jeffrey Benz, on Saturday mornings.  Supported by a tight knit family, she is also often flanked by her mother, Barbara, and her brother, Joseph, or her sister, Alison.

Juliet’s rise to fame at the Hamburg Rink was the result of her remarkable determination and diligence.  Although she is not noted for her tremendous speed, Juliet never quits and never stops trying.  Juliet sets her own pace as her father patiently guides her around the rink.  Together, they always reach their goals for the day.

Another trait we love about Juliet is her wit and sense of humor.  When Executive Director Sheila O’Brien teases her by calling her different names, Juliet sweetly teases her back by calling her Gertrude or another nickname.  We love that under Juliet’s sweet and smiling face there is just a touch of sass and good natured humor!  Without a doubt, Juliet adds great joy to SABAH’s Hamburg program and we are delighted to name her as SABAH’s December Athlete of the Month!  Congratulations Juliet!

November 2015 Athlete of the Month – Ethan Milich

SABAH is pleased to recognize 17 year old Ethan Milich for his determination and remarkable progress during his 6 years with SABAH!  When Ethan began participating with SABAH, he was eleven years old and could not stand up in skates.  During his early years at the Northtown Center at Amherst, Ethan used a Rifton Walker and was unable to move independently.  Since that time, Ethan has progressed from a walker to skating independently.  Just recently, Ethan was rewarded for his efforts by being moved up to Group 1, the Intermediate Group!  Ethan’s mom, Jennifer, proudly stated, “It was a great confidence boost for Ethan when he found out he had been moved up!  We were so excited that we went out to celebrate!”  SABAH has also made a tremendous impact on Ethan, as he has made many friends in the program, including his volunteer, Jack.  Jennifer adds, “Ethan has become much more outgoing because of his friendship with Jack, as well as the other friendships he has made in SABAH.”

In addition to his participation in SABAH, Ethan is an accomplished student at Sweet Home High School where he was inducted into the National Honor Society just last year.  The busy high school senior also has a new job as an “after school counselor” at the JCC and participates in Challenger Baseball and Special Olympic Bowling.  He is also a proud and doting uncle to his nieces, Arianna, Miliegh, and Carissa!

For all of his hard work and dedication, SABAH proudly names Ethan Milich as the November Athlete of the Month!  Congratulations Ethan!

Louise Meyer

July Athlete of the Month

Louise Meyer

SABAH’s July Athlete of the Month has been a part of SABAH’s Northtown Center on Ice Weekend Program for the past twenty years!  Louise Meyer, a severely visually impaired SABAH athlete, has a tender spirit and petite frame which disguise her grit and fearlessness on the ice.  Every Sunday morning during the SABAH season, Louise courageously improves her skating capabilities with the same determination she musters to face the daily challenges of blindness.  For SABAH athletes who are visually impaired, the act of skating can be a daunting experience, especially on a rink filled with many other skaters and volunteers.  These athletes, in particular, must develop a significant level of trust in their volunteers in order to participate and thrive in SABAH’s programs.  At 49 years old, Louise’s two decades of experience make her a SABAH veteran who can capably lead and guide new volunteers.  With her sweet disposition, Louise eagerly explains what she needs and how to make the experience more rewarding, not just for herself, but for all of SABAH’s athletes.  For her enthusiastic outlook and her years of dedication to SABAH, we are honored to name Louise as the July Athlete of the Month!

Mark Hawn

Mark Hawn – SABAH’s Athlete of the Month – June, 2015

SABAH is pleased to name 24 year old, Mark Hawn, as the Athlete of the Month for June!  Mark has been a SABAH athlete since 1997 and currently participates in two programs, the Riverside Evening program and the Adaptive Hockey program.  A dedicated SABAH athlete, Mark works very hard and is incredibly proud of each accomplishment he makes in both programs.

Mark loves his Riverside Rink SABAH “family” and skates with his dad, Mark, Sr., in Group 3 each Tuesday evening.  Quite frequently, Mark will exclaim proudly, “I did it!” after he reaches another goal or milestone.  Mark is also a very kind and sensitive athlete, who greets his fellow athletes and SABAH’s Executive Director, Sheila O’Brien, with a bright and loud “Well, hello there!”

Mark is also a passionate hockey player who has participated in the Adaptive Hockey program since its first year.  After eight years in the program, Mark has developed into an accomplished hockey player.  His excitement bubbles over, as Mark enthusiastically talks the entire time he is on the ice!  Because of his joy and kind spirit, SABAH is honored to name Mark the June Athlete of the Month!