The small gesture that made a big difference

by Kevin Torres

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Small gestures can make a big difference in someone’s life. Just ask the unlikely duo we met in Steamboat Springs, Colorado recently.

It’s there, in the Routt County community, where a high school senior formed a unique bond with a former CNN anchor turned hockey announcer.

"We have a lot of great hockey games here,” explained Shannon Lukens, the announcer.

Lukens has called plenty of games at Howelsen Ice Arena over the last couple of years, but few games have been as special as the one she attended the other night.

It was ‘Pink the Rink’ night at the ice arena in Steamboat, a night dedicated to hockey and bringing attention to breast cancer awareness.

Team members from the Steamboat Wranglers hockey team wore pink jerseys to show their support during their game against the Pueblo Bulls.

"It feels really good to put [the pink jerseys] on and go out and play and show your support in a little different way than most would,” said Adam Albert, the team’s captain.

For Lukens, the game had an extra special meaning. She had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and it was her first day back at the rink to continue her announcing duties.

"Unfortunately, I was just diagnosed with it and Oct. 6 I had a major surgery,” Lukens said. “[But] I rallied and made it to the rink to do my job."

Plenty of people attended the game that night, including a high school senior named Kyle Taulman.

Taulman is an up-and-coming top Paralympic skier in the United States. He lives in Steamboat Springs with his family.

“In 2018 I got the opportunity to go Korea with another adaptive organization as an adaptive ambassador for the games,” Taulman said.

Taulman lost his ability to walk when he was a child.

"I was actually paralyzed at the age of 2 from a cancerous tumor that wrapped around my spinal cord,” he said.

Not letting his disability get in his way, Taulman pushed himself to become a great Paralympic skier.

"It’s freedom, really,” Taulman said. "Because in the [wheel]chair you are confined."

Aside from being an athlete, Taulman is an incredibly talented singer. In fact, he sings the National Anthem at some of the hockey games at Howelsen Ice Arena and other areas around town.

"I’ve been a singer for as long as I can remember,” Taulman said.

"He’s a crowd favorite! Everyone just goes wild because he knocks down the house!” said Lukens.

Taulman certainly knocked down the house the night of the ‘Pink the Rink’ game. While he was performing the National Anthem, he did something special: he hid a bouquet of pink roses behind his wheelchair.

Once the number was complete, he wheeled over to Lukens and handed them to her.

"I had no idea what was going on because I was getting ready for the next line up,” Lukens said.

"I gave her some flowers to kind of commemorate the night,” Taulman responded. "Of course, being someone who had cancer when I was younger, I’ve always supported people who have cancer”.

"It was the sweetest thing. It was so thoughtful!” Lukens said.

Needless to say, the tiny gesture melted the hearts of everyone at the ice arena.

"Any time you can make any kind of kind gesture is an opportunity to change someone’s mood. Make their day,” Taulman said.

True sportsmanship doesn’t always come in the form of goals and wins; sometimes it’s shown with kindness and compassion.

"Just be a good person. It doesn’t have to be on a big scale,” Taulman said.

As for Lukens, she just found out she’s cancer free. Between that news and Taulman’s kind gesture, the hockey announcer couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It was a really special night!" Lukens said.

Moreover, it’s always been Taulman’s dream to perform the National Anthem at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

“[The National Anthem] is really something that represents our country as a whole and getting to sing it is a huge honor for me,” Taulman said. “Getting to do it at such a huge scale would be amazing!"