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Family Illness Inspires Montclair Blues 16U Player Ryan Weissman

By Carl Chimenti, 03/31/22, 6:15PM MDT


Weissman’s brother Daniel’s cancer diagnosis led him to pursue volunteer opportunities

As the plane touched down at Detroit’s Metro Airport from Newark, New Jersey, 16-, soon to be 17-year-old, defenseman Ryan Weissman felt like he was on top of the world.

Weissman, who hails from Glenridge, N.J., and his Montclair Blues teammates are in town to participate in the 2022 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships, battling with 15 other teams for the 3A division hardware.

But turn back the clock to approximately five years ago and things were not so rosy for the Weissman family. It was then that Ryan’s little brother, Daniel, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, which became a very tough situation for the entire family.

“When my brother was first diagnosed, I was actually on my way to Lake Placid, New York, with my Blues team for a hockey tournament,” recalled Ryan. “My parents were with my little brother, and it was shortly after that I got word of my brother’s illness, which was pretty tough on our whole family.”

At the time that Daniel was getting his treatment, it put a real hardship on the family. Mom and Dad had to accompany Daniel to Philadelphia’s Children Hospital and that’s when family and friends pitched in to help.

“They all helped out, getting me healed and making sure that I had a place to stay,” said Ryan. “Life was pretty tough for everyone in my family while he was at treatment and we are all grateful that Daniel is all better now and that he can live a normal life like everyone else now.”

As Daniel was getting better a year or so later, like any sibling, he wanted to start to learn to skate and play hockey like his older brother, and it was about that time when Ryan decided to join the New Jersey Dare Devils as a volunteer.

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The non-profit organization, which has been around since 2002, runs a program that teaches people of all ages with disabilities to learn how to skate and play hockey. Daniel’s situation inspired Ryan to join the Dare Devils, about the same time that his younger sibling was just starting in the program.

“A lot of the kids have special needs like my brother has,” said Ryan. “It is really beautiful to see them progress, not only as hockey players but as human beings in general.”

In addition to the hockey programs and Learn To Skate, the Dare Devils are a physical outlet for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities.

“We have 65 players in our hockey program and about 20 volunteer coaches and junior coaches like Ryan,” explained Andy Piccirillo, spokesman for the Dare Devils. “We break up the 65 players into three teams, level A, B, and C, with level A and B our top older kids and adults while level C is for the kids Learn To Skate program.”

The players meet once a week for an hour and a half, which is broken into two sessions. Sessions take place at the Essex County Codey Arena in West Orange, N.J.

“It’s a nice hockey program for children and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Piccirillo. “Everybody in the program learns how to skate and gets equipment. We have coaches that played the game of hockey and are very engaged with the kids and adults.”

Ryan believes the program is a very valuable asset to have.

“We can teach them to play this game, that is very beneficial to their life, especially when they are less fortunate, with all the conditions they have to deal with in their life,” he said. “We teach them all aspects of the game and they really have a lot of fun participating.”

With all the difficulties and stress the Weissman family has had to deal with, everything is much better now as Daniel continues to make positive progress.

“He is doing really well,” said Ryan. “He is almost six years in remission since his last radiation treatment and now he is in school and hangs out with his friends like most kids his age.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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