The members of the Sacred Heart University Pioneers Men’s Ice Hockey Team gathered in a meeting room at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport to officially welcome their newest teammate on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
The team met Amity High School student Zakarai Schneider, 16, of Bethany, last season, and a few weeks ago he geared up and joined them on the ice.
“When we first met Zak, you could feel an instant connection between him and the players,”Coach C.J. Marottolo said.
Zakarai, who is well-known in the Amity High community, was passing the puck with the guys and blew Marottolo away when he scored a goal.
Now, you may think, big deal, high school players score goals all the time, what’s so special about this kid?
Well, Zakarai (I’ve always called him Zak) was diagnosed with a neurological disorder at birth. Doctors said he would never be able to walk, yet with hard work and determination, he not only walks but runs and ice skates. He is non-verbal, but his devoted father, Mark seems to understand every thought and emotion his son has and is quick to share them with you.
“You are all his heroes,” Mark told the team.
This opportunity was made possible by Team Impact, a national nonprofit headquartered in Boston, MA that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming lifelong bonds and life-changing outcomes. Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,800 children with their dream teams.
The Schneiders and the Pioneers connected last season, but Tuesday was extremely special. Zak became the first young man formally connected to a Sacred Heart team through Team Impact,