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Mary Kippenhan, an 11-year-old from Rockland, Massachusetts, loves hockey, and doesn’t let cerebral palsy get in her way.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, Mary learned to walk and talk later than kids her age. Her comprehension skills are several years behind her peers, But when she fell in love with hockey after watching a game with her father a few years back, instead of only watching the sport on television, she joined a local team.
“Mary is in the fifth grade, but she comprehends at about the first grade level,” said her father, George Kippenhan. “Her cerebral palsy affects her muscles and her brain. Her muscle issues meant she was a late walker and late talker. So every little hill that’s put in front of her it takes her a little longer to get up, but she will scratch and claw her way up.”
It wasn’t an easy task for Mary. While learning to skate, most days were filled with a lot of falling down. Yet, she got up with a smile on her face and kept going.
A few months later, a man who watched her learn to skate, Marty Decourcey, asked her to join his local youth hockey team, Boston Junior Terriers. The team is a group of top-notch hockey players who play at the “highest level” in their state and throughout the Northeast.
“When Mary told me that Marty wanted her on his hockey team, I went to Marty and said, ‘Dude what are you talking about?’ Marty said, ‘I need her on my team. She is going to teach my boys more than I could ever teach them.'”
For the past two years, Mary has been dressing up with the team. While sitting on the bench watching them play each game, she shouts words of encouragement and keeps their enthusiasm up.
Teammate Peter Fischer said that Mary helps them to not be “mean” while another teammate, Dylan Rakes, said that Mary’s enthusiasm gives him the “courage to keep trying.”
Mary said she kept getting up when she fell down, which ultimately encouraged her teammates to follow her lead and keep trying. Coach Decourcey said he could not have asked for a better player.
“Many of her teammates call her our good luck charm. She has humbled me. When things are tough, you just look at Mary with a big smile on her face and all is great.”