A celebration match featuring the Odyssey Ice Academy’s cohort for 2020 battling it out against the Stena Line Belfast Giants has taken place in the SSE Arena, Belfast to mark the final session on the ice for the programme.
Over the past six months, twenty young people who have been in care or experienced mental health difficulties have been learning a wide range of ice hockey skills alongside professional ‘off the ice’ training, including sessions in communications; volunteering; fitness; team building; and skills training.
The Ice Academy has been funded by the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Odyssey Trust as part of the Executive’s Together: Building a United Community strategy. Project partner Include Youth, will provide ongoing mentoring support to help build self-esteem, confidence and resilience as the young people transition into adulthood.
Speaking at the Odyssey Ice Academy Celebration Match, Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA said: “The Ice Academy represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for these young people to improve confidence and develop important life skills alongside the Belfast Giants. I am proud that my Department continues to support this worthwhile initiative and is helping to make a difference to the lives of the young people. The slogan of the Belfast Giants is ‘In the land of giants everyone is equal’; this stance on inclusion and equality resonates with the very ethos of the Ice Academy.”
Head of Hockey Development at Odyssey Trust, Jeff Mason said: “Since the launch of the third programme in September, it’s been fantastic to watch this group of young people take on new challenges and develop a greater understanding of their strength and weaknesses. Sport is a great way to learn skills that supports development both on and off the ice, and we’re glad the Belfast Giants could do their part in helping these young people discover that.”
Paddy Mooney, Director Include Youth said: “This year we saw the programme extend further than Belfast which allowed even more young care experienced people to take part. The feedback from the all the participants, and the progression they have made, has been superb.
“Alongside the skills building, friendship making and confidence building, one of the main reasons this programme is so effective is the pure enjoyment experienced.”