Prairie Grit strong

Creating opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities in Minot

Ashton Gerard/MDN Dave Christian, back center, stands with Drew Hanson and Chad Thompson with volunteers and kids of Prairie Grit.

For those living with disabilities, it’s often difficult to find a place to fit in or a way to do things that everyone else is doing. Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports is giving people, youth and adults, living with disabilities the chance to experience sports, teamwork and camaraderie the way an average person can.

The goal of the Prairie Grit program is to create opportunities for Minot’s youth, adults, and their families through adaptive sports. Sports teach life lessons about failure, success, mental and physical health, and they want everyone to have the chance to learn and experience these lessons.

Ultimately, there are barriers for those with mental or physical disabilities being able to participate in normal sports programs. Prairie Grit wants to eliminate those barriers to give everyone the opportunity to do what they love with and in the community they love.

Chad and Angie Thompson started the program in 2016 to give their son the same opportunities their other children have. The first sport they have started with is hockey, adaptively, sled hockey.

“Palmer is our son and (he) has spina bifida. He’s got three brothers, one older, and he’s always been coming to the rink to watch his older brother play since he was born,” Chad Thompson said. “He’s had a sled since he was 2, now he’s 6, and there weren’t any adaptive sports programs in Minot like this.”

Ashton Gerard/MDN Volunteers push children on sleds Saturday at the Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports sled hockey practice at Maysa Arena.

The Thompsons wanted a place for their child to fit in and something that all their children could do together. From this, they’ve created a community of people and families that now have the opportunity to enjoy sports, for now specifically hockey, in a way they weren’t able to before.

While the program has continued to grow, Prairie Grit acquired more sleds and has amassed volunteers to help with their practices and open skates.

Prairie Grit has been off to a quick start and is something Thompson credits the community and area organizations for.

“It’s been really fun, the support of the community,” Thompson said. “The Minot Hockey Boosters has been unbelievable.”

With the growth, Thompson brought on Drew Hanson as Executive Director to help spread the reach of Prairie Grit and to continue to develop the sled hockey program and branch out into other sports as well.

Ashton Gerard/MDN Dave Christian on the ice Saturday at the Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports sled hockey practice on Saturday.

“Eventually, I think we’ll try to form an actual team and start playing games, but it’ll be a ways down the road,” Hanson said of the sled hockey program. “Eventually we’re going to try to get into more sports, too, not just sled hockey.”

Saturday was Prairie Grit’s First Inaugural Banquet and Family Social with keynote speaker Dave Christian. Christian is a former NHL player and Olympic athlete. Christian joined Prairie Grit Saturday for their practice at Maysa Arena and even joined the kids on the ice himself. Even though he’s accomplished much throughout his career, all he could talk about Saturday were the kids.

“It’s been so eye-opening and it’s been such a pleasure to see the smiles on the kids’ faces going on the ice,” Christian said.

From the banquet, Prairie Grit is not only hoping to raise funds but also raise awareness of the program. Both Hanson and Thompson stressed that sled hockey is not only for children. Adults can participate and benefit from the program as well and they’re excited to see more of a turnout in the future.

Many families came together on Saturday morning at Maysa Arena for the practice, one being Minot resident Kevin Burckhard, who was there with his children as an activity they could all do together.

“When you have children who are able-bodied but developmentally delayed because of the condition they were born with, like down syndrome, they can play typical sports but they do have delays in learning things like balance and having awareness,” Burckhard said. “Hockey is less likely for children like ours to be able to play in a typical recreational league setting.”

Prairie Grit has given the Burckhard children a chance to participate in a sport they couldn’t have otherwise. Burckhard said he and his family have met some of the best children and adults who have disabilities and formed a community and now all have something they can call their own.

Thompson said Prairie Grit would be fools not to listen to the community for suggestions on sports to branch out into. To learn more or become a part of the Prairie Grit family, visit them on Facebook at Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports or go to their website,