EWU Students Welcome Kids for Skate Night

February 5, 2024

Members of Eastern’s hockey team put away their pucks and sticks recently as they welcomed children with special needs onto the ice. Eleven children joined the team to experience ice skating in an inclusive and safe environment for the event, held on Jan. 20.

The kids’ time on the ice came thanks to the collaborative efforts of EWU’s hockey club, Eastern’s emergency medical technician (EMT) students, and Courageous Kids Climbing, a nonprofit that partners with local communities to help those with special needs experience sports. 

“Many of these kids have never ice skated before,” says Jeff Riechmann, executive director of Courageous Kids Climbing. “This is an opportunity to make them feel important and raise awareness for kids with special needs.”

The Eagle EMT students were invited—along with first-responders from the Cheney Fire Department—to provide medical support and ensure the safety of everyone on the ice. For these future medical providers, the event was more than just an opportunity to practice patient care, it was a chance to interact with and understand the unique challenges of people with special needs.

“Our program focuses heavily on taking care of the person, not just an illness or injury,” says Nate Lawton, program director for the EWU EMS certificate program. “Interacting with these kids is a great chance for us to practice providing phenomenal patient care.”

Several of the children in attendance were able to help with some of the skill demonstrations, like spine control and direct patient lifts. The collaboration was beneficial for both the EMT students and the children.

“We want to encourage the first responders to look at the challenges that the kids face everyday and enhance their skills for working with kids with special needs,” Riechmann says. “We also want to lessen any fears that the child may harbor toward people in uniform.”

During the event, the children experienced both the thrill of ice skating and assisted in medical demonstrations. Awareness and inclusivity were fostered for all involved. 

“As EMTs, we often see people on their worst days,” Lawton says. “Getting to share in something that was truly joyful was pretty neat.”