By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One in 68 families has a loved one living with autism, and when dealing with first-time situations, they know a practice run-through can make a difference.

That’s why the Minnesota Wild partnered with Associated Bank and the Autism Society to expose students to the sights and sound of a hockey game.

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The event did more than just familiarize children with the game. Students from Spero and Lionsgate Academy met in the lobby of the Xcel Energy Center for a new adventure.

“It gets them ready to go to a game see what the arena is like, what it’s like to pick our your seat, what it’s like to watch a game, what it’s like to walk through the stadium,” Michelle LaMar of Associated Bank said. “It just helps to reduce any of that anxiety of going into a new environment.”

“Into the Wild” is an event that lets young people with autism celebrate being part of the State of Hockey.

“A really big part of being a Minnesotan is being a Wild fan, and the chance to come and experience this at their own pace, with all the support that they need to try this new experience, is exactly what we’re all about today,” Wilson said.

From tours of the arena, to watching the Wild practice, the families are thankful for the experience.

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“If we were to come when everyone else was here, it would be too loud,” mother Jennifer Jensen said. “He would not be able to take it all in as nicely as he is now.”

“It feels so cool to see the stadium,” Cooper Jensen said.

But this is not all about hockey. Associated Bank, one of the event sponsors, also spent time teaching banking, budgeting and personal finances.

“You get to learn behind the scenes of the Minnesota Wild, and you get to get out in the community,” Wild fan Nathan Wong said.

It was an outing created to help all kids be the best they can be.

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Thirty-five kids and teenagers, ages 7 to 18, were hosted at the Xcel Energy Center Friday.

Reg Chapman