Ellington Family Honoring Son With Hockey Rink, American Ninja Warrior Park – Hartford Courant
Even before he was born, Jacob Roger Poulin was destined to play hockey. His grandfather got him skates while he was “still in the belly,” and he held a hockey stick as soon as he could.
He seemingly had natural athletic talent, on skates at 18 months old, even before he began walking a month later. By age 3, he was swinging across monkey bars. His father, Steve Poulin described his athleticism as God-given talent.
“He played street [hockey], he played in the basement, he played downstairs,” Poulin said. “We built him a rink for a couple years, and he played outside. He actually used to play before school. He used to give himself hockey homework before school … he would sit there and shoot slap shots and wrist shots to get ready for the upcoming season.”
On April 2, 2016 everything changed. Jacob was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that affects only a few hundred children in the U.S. He battled for six months but died at the age of 5 on Oct. 1, his father’s birthday.
His parents, Steve and Sarah, and sisters Gabriella, 4 and Hannah, 2, are honoring Jacob’s two passions — hockey and American Ninja Warrior — with the Jacob Roger Poulin Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of raising enough money to build an outdoor hockey rink and an American Ninja Warrior-style park in Ellington. So far about half the estimated $600,000 needed has been raised.
The Poulins have worked closely with Ellington First Selectman Lori Spielman to make the park a reality. They already have a spot picked out — the only thing missing is the money to make it happen.
“We’re trying to find more sponsors and any kind of help to fundraise the park,” Steve Poulin said. “We want to have the grand opening weekend on Oct. 1 in his memory and his honor, so we’re excited.”
The park and the rink have been in the works since last fall, Spielman said. A small shack was built that holds equipment, with the goal to turn it into a concession stand and restrooms.
The goal is to be able to use the rink in all seasons, having a street hockey/floor hockey-type material in warm months and ice for winter months.
The park, designed by Sarah, aims to incorporate equipment both children and adults can enjoy that’s also consistent with American Ninja Warrior, such as swinging from obstacle to obstacle, Spielman said.
“If you see American Ninja Warrior, it’s not just the monkey bars, there’s different ways of doing monkey bars where you’re climbing and balancing,” Steve Poulin said. “We’re going to come up with a good mix.”
After Jacob died, Sarah Poulin trained to compete on American Ninja Warrior in her son’s honor. She competed in Cleveland two months ago, and over 250 people came to Buffalo Wild Wings in Manchester on Monday night to watch it on television. She didn’t make it to the next round, but she vowed to compete again.
The foundation has organized a number of events to raise money, from tickets to Yard Goats games to selling T-shirts on their website to raffles at the Real Life Ninja Academy competition.
The support from the people of Ellington has been nothing short of incredible, Poulin said, and part of the motivation to build the park and rink is to give back to them, too.
“The town was so kind of us, above and beyond,” Poulin said. “The love that the town of Ellington showed us was immense. That was why, as soon as Jacob passed away, we pretty much started right away. We have to honor him, and we have gotta help the town of Ellington and give back to the town of Ellington.”
To donate to the foundation and learn more about Jacob, visit jrpf.org.