Every day on the drive home from school, 4-year-old Colby Deharo chants “hockey, hockey, hockey’’ with excited anticipation.
But as much as he wants to pick up his stick and start shooting when he gets home, he simply can’t.
Colby has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle tone, coordination, and motor skills in varying degrees, from a slight limp to no cognition.
The condition is caused by damage to the brain, which most often occurs during pregnancy or childbirth.
“He is extremely cognitively aware,’’ said his mother, Tracy Deharo. “But he has motor issues. He cannot sit, stand, or walk on his own.’’
So when they arrive at their home in Woburn, Tracy lifts her son out of the car and puts a hockey stick in his hand as quickly as she can.
With the right equipment, like braces, and some manual help from Mom, Colby spends the afternoon hitting ball after ball into the goal.
“He likes to hit the ball,’’ said his father, Jeff, who is in his 15th season minding the net in the Old Time Over-30 men’s street hockey league at Hockey Town in Saugus. “He’ll play with any ball and any stick.’’
“He is following in his father’s footsteps for sure,’’ said Tracy Deharo. “When I met Jeff he was playing five times a week. Now Colby is playing seven days a week.’’
When Colby was diagnosed at 30 days old, the first-time parents had no idea what it meant for their family.
Jeff stopped playing hockey for a while because he was just “in shock.’’
But he soon realized that those three or four hours one night a week were just what he needed to relieve stress.
“We quickly figured out that he needed it,’’ said Tracy. “Everyone needs their own outlet. Being around a group of guys, it helps keep you going.’’
The Deharos have made great progress in providing Colby with the tools he needs to be successful.
He has braces for much of his body (his ankle braces are adorned with the Boston Bruins logo) and a power wheelchair, purchased through insurance.
Colby attends the Cotting School in Lexington, a private school founded in 1893 for toddlers through teenagers with a range of mental and physical disabilities.
Their mission is to educate their students and help them achieve independence.
The school also organizes six-week seasons of other adaptive sports. In the spring Colby played baseball.
Jeff says that this fall, Colby is learning how to play soccer and “we are looking for an adaptive hockey program for him to play in eventually.’’
At school, Colby is learning the colors, shapes, and alphabet, as well as how to drive his wheelchair. However, the Deharos have no way to transport it yet.
“The only way to do the zoos, museums, the mall, anything, is if we carry him,’’ said Colby’s grandfather, Billy Watkins. “I am in really good shape, but after 15 minutes of carrying him, I’m hanging meat.’’
The Deharos are holding a fund-raiser on Oct. 8 at The Sons of Italy in Woburn, 168 Lexington Street, from 5 to 10 p.m., to raise money for a fully automated handicapped-accessible van.
It will have a hydraulic ramp that will allow Colby to drive the wheelchair in and out of the vehicle.
“We’re trying to raise enough money to make payments more manageable,’’ said Jeff, who puts the cost of the vehicle at roughly $70,000 to $80,000.
“At least a quarter of the vehicle and modifications cost is our goal.’’
This is the first fund-raiser the Deharos have organized. The $20 ticket covers a small donation for the night’s event, which includes DJ, dancing, and finger foods. They will be raffling off 25 to 30 gift baskets priced near $150 each.
The “50/50 Plus’’ raffle winner will receive an iPod nano in addition to cash winnings.
There will also be a silent and a live auction with items donated from friends and businesses, including sports tickets and memorabilia.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Old Time Over-30 men’s league, and Jeff is an important part of the team.
Over the years, Jeff has won three of the coveted championship jackets, but the support of his fellow hockey players on Saturday will be an honor that lives closer to his heart.
“We take it one day at a time,’’ he said of the challenges of their son’s condition. “We want to make sure [Colby ] has all the equipment and accessories he needs to be successful in life.’’
“He wants to do what any 4-year-old does, and he is smart enough to learn how to do it,’’ said Tracy. “I learn the most from him. He’s happy and teaches me to make the most of every day.’’