Kayleen Oliver
Written by Joanne Costantino

Kayleen Oliver currently lives in Glenside, PA, but hails from Cinnaminson, NJ.

Kayleen, now 24 years old, started playing for the Wings of Steel when she was in 6th grade. Her brother played able body hockey for his high school at the Skate Zone and her mom spotted a flyer inviting players for the Wings of Steel. Both she and her brother love hockey and joining the Wings gave her the chance to be part of the game, just like her brother. She and her brother shared the same uniform number, 11.

In the three years of playing sled hockey Kayleen has nothing but fond memories of the experience of belonging to a team and developing close lifelong friendships. The experience of road trips traveling to other team rinks was something she especially holds dear to her heart. While on the road Kayleen found it to be a chance to bond and really get to know about the people she played with on the ice and their families. In Kayleen’s memory, every rink had its own story to retell after each visit. Many players voice the same feeling that once on the ice and in the sled the trappings of having a disability went away. The team promotes a sense of safety, identity, and hope.

She no longer plays sled hockey and really misses it but with her busy academic schedule doesn’t have time to pursue anything else, but someday would like to try cycling.

Kayleen graduated from Arcadia University with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 2012 and is now working towards her Master’s in Counseling Psychology, and will graduate this May. Her goal is to provide counseling to military personnel and their families, focusing on reintegration to civilian life. Her other areas of interest is in grief counseling and children in the foster care system. She is presently completing an internship in a domestic violence center, working with children and the non-offending parent.

This interview gave Kayleen a chance to put down in words two of the most influential teammates she credits with her daily inspiration, Michael Senk and Jessica Shaw. Michael and Jessica are deceased, but Kayleen remembers each of them and draws inspiration from those memories on a daily basis. “Michael allowed me to see the spirit of life, reminding me daily what it means to have fun, to have hope, and to smile even when things seem totally upside down. Michael inspired me to pursue this degree in counseling. Though he was lost far too soon, that experience taught me the power of connectivity, community, relationships and recovery.” Kayleen reminisces about Jessica as the person who inspired her to be strong and love yourself or all that you are and will be. “She was the kind of person you’d want on your side forever; so full of life, determined to be her best, to ‘defy the odds’ and have fun along the way. I’m thankful for Jessica, her sass, heart, and love; all of which I carry with me daily, now and in the future.”