In 2003, One Step Beyond was founded by a family that struggled to find post-high school programs for their daughter with intellectual disabilities. They wanted to create a program to help adults continue learning and growing.
It started out with 16 participants but has grown to include more than 700 individuals and their families, and has expanded geographically to include Coastsiders, several of whom have found themselves on the ice through the One Step Sharks program.
“I think of One Step Beyond as a day program, but also kind of a college of the arts for adults with intellectual disabilities,” said Jared Woosley, who runs the One Step Sharks program. “After high school, opportunities can be limited, and what One Step Beyond does is try and provide opportunities for adults when it comes to independent living, job placement, meaningful employment and recreational activities from music to dance to art.”
“Anything our participants have an interest in pursuing, we try to make that possible for them,” he said. “Hockey is one of the things that, if they are interested, we’re there with the One Step Sharks program.”
The hockey program was developed in Arizona, in 2016, when One Step Beyond partnered with the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes. In 2018 they opened up One Step Sharks, with the San Jose Sharks in California.
“It was a really great outlet and (Arizona) was the first outlet for ice hockey within our program, so we decided to provide the same outlet in California,” said Woosley. “It was a success right away. The San Jose Sharks really embraced it and have always supported us. They give us ice time, jerseys and make special appearances.”
This year One Step Sharks has 22 players, five of whom live on the San Mateo County coast.
“We take a lot of these opportunities, and things you and I do every day, for granted,” said Jennifer Schwegman, public relations consultant to One Step Beyond. “One Step really makes those things happen for them and hockey is so special. To go out onto the ice and see the skates and the huge smiles on their faces is really amazing.”
The team practices twice a week during a four-month-long season and participates in the Annual Arizona Cactus Cup Tournament, where the One Step Sharks have the opportunity to play with the One Step Coyotes.
“They learn teamwork and making friends and socialization, so there are many life skills that they are learning,” said Woosley. “When I first started working at One Step, I was blown away because many people thought ice skating wouldn’t be something they would be able to do.”
“There are people in wheelchairs out on the ice, people skating, I love it,” he said. “Watching the skaters is just incredible.”
One Step Beyond has also implemented quite a few adaptive devices for players over the last few decades, such as hockey pucks for visually impaired players and tools to help players improve their balance, to ensure it can include as many players as possible.
“The thing that makes One Step Beyond different from other organizations that offer similar programs for adults with intellectual disabilities is that they really let the individuals who are participating determine what’s next,” said Woosley. “If someone wants to do something, everybody at One Step really steps up and is like, how can we make that happen? They really drive it.”
One Step Beyond and the One Step Sharks are actively seeking volunteers, and also have opportunities for employment.
“We welcome everyone,” said Woosley. “We need lots of volunteers, on and off the ice. One Step Beyond is such a great organization to come and work for. It’s such a pleasant place to come and dedicate your time.”