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Meet Coach Shawn from RI Special Hockey!

By GPYHA, 12/07/17, 8:30AM EST


In the hustle and bustle before and after our ice sessions we never have the time to meet the coaches who work with our kids week after week. So today we want to take a few moments to introduce you to Coach Shawn Fennell.

Coach Shawn has volunteered as an on-ice coach with Rhode Island Special Hockey since 2015. He tends to work with our learn-to- skate players, and you’ll always find him singling out individual kids for some well needed one-on-one instruction. Apart from being an experienced skater and player, Shawn has a noticeably gentle and attentive way of interacting with all the kids - and it’s no wonder why.

Shawn has a deep passion for making all of society more aware of the importance of supporting children and families that are stricken with life threatening illnesses or living with disabilities. Over the past years he has devoted himself to bringing change in how we, as a society, support those children and their families — to create a way to say, “Hey…I get you, I understand.” From this very simple idea, Shawn has started a worldwide movement where a simple sign-language wink says, “I get you, I understand”.

Here is an excerpt from the website

When many of us encounter a child with a disability, we tend to look away or alter our path — simply because we don’t know what to say or do… when we want to extend support, we are often concerned about how our actions will be perceived: “I don’t want to appear insensitive, but I don’t want to infringe on the family’s privacy,” … Such thoughts can result in us opting to do nothing. What remains in the wake of doing nothing is an obvious, uncomfortable, and unproductive void.

So, instead of living with inaction, discomfort, and awkwardness, we’ve launched Wink. This awareness-raising campaign promotes the nonverbal, nonintrusive action of a “wink,” as spoken in American Sign Language, as a branded and recognized way to convey to children with disabilities — and their families — that their courageous example has touched our hearts.

In addition to a 30 minute documentary that highlights families living with disabilities, Sean also produced a 30 second awareness video promoting the idea of “Wink” that has been shown by the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, as well as at the home rinks of the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars of the NHL. If that’s not enough, Sean is also a public speaker and the author of an action packed novel, appropriately titled “Wink”. It’s the story of a girl who overcomes obstacles to learn life lessons, and in doing so finds faith, hope, love, understanding, courage and, in the end, awareness.

Many thanks to Coach Shawn for his dedication to our RI Special Hockey program and to his bigger worldwide vision to spread awareness of how we can better relate to children living with disabilities. Take a moment to see Sean’s efforts in action at and say hello to him next time you are at the rink!