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Hockey for Life continues to pay it forward

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

It all started ten years ago when a couple of friends looking to find a way to honor their friend, Bob Smith, who died suddenly of a heart attack while playing hockey.

To this day, the Hockey for Life organization continues to raise money for charities and groups, mostly within the South Bend community. So when the puck drops each year at their annual hockey tournament, it's a reminder of good fortune.

"We've been very fortunate; able to play the game we love, and to be able to give back to our community here," Patrick Nowak, Executive Director of Hockey for Life, said.

Each year, the organization picks a different local charity to benefit, such as the American Heart Association, Ronald McDonald House, and most recently, the Make-a-Wish Foundation. One of the organizations that continues to benefit each year from Hockey for Life is the River City Sled Dogs, a sled hockey team whose players mainly have disabilities, like Sarah Lewis.

"I always had a dream of playing hockey but I can't because I'm in a wheelchair," Lewis said.

Sarah was born with spina bifida, a condition making very hard for her to stand up at all but somehow she found her way onto the ice.

"Yeah I'm kind of one of those determined kind of people," Lewis said.

.And a directly benefited from Hockey for Life.

"It's just so amazing, like we're getting so many players, so many donations, it's just so amazing, you would've never thought that would happen," Lewis said.

Ten years at the South Bend Ice Box, Hockey for Life continues to create a lifetime of memories for those wanting to suit up just like everyone else.

"They're having fun out here but they're also raising money to give kids a chance with disabilities to play hockey," Jay Lewis, Sarah's father, said.

"Just like our sled hockey program that we've helped out, just these the individuals who were just starting out, they helped us, we helped them and it's just giving back to one another," Nowak said.

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