Our “Successful Skating” class is wrapped up its first session this season. As I look back to last year’s program (which was our first), we made some changes in order to make this program more successful for both the skaters and the mentors. I also recognize that this program’s growth allows it to expand well beyond skating skills.
First, we lengthened our program to eight weeks rather than the standard six-week class. This allows the children more ice-time and more time and exposure to the routine. We also changed the class time to mitigate the number of people and amount of chaos in the lobby while the kids get ready to skate. It can be utter chaos in the lobby with hockey programs and learn-to-skate programs going on simultaneously (which is usually not good for the kids we work with). We started to incorporate a skill checklist (courtesy of Full Strides), so we can work on specific skills with kids if needed. And we added some great Full Stride hockey jerseys (per recommendation from a board member) for our kids and our mentors. Finally, we did some extensive research and ordered some “skate walkers” that will appropriately fit the kids we serve and have begun considering skates that will allow kids to wear their AFO’s (leg braces).
Of the eight kids ages 6-12, with various disabilities, who participated in our program, four were new to our program. We had as many as ten mentors show up on any given Wednesday to help these kids out. Granted, this program is about learning to skate, but it is so much more than skating.
Yes, all the kids made progress skating. Some learned how to navigate turns, others could push a crate, and some were able to eventually stand on the ice by themselves without assistance. But as the weeks went on, the trust they developed with the mentors improved, relationships started to form with one another, and they developed confidence in themselves. They also began to help one another. It was amazing to see one sister encouraging her brother to continue to move forward, another sister pushing her brother on a crate around the ice, and a peer skater pushing another child on a crate.
When given opportunities, these kids shine! Without our amazing mentors, Full Stride, and the Boston Bruin Foundation Grant this opportunity would not be possible. It is possible because of the genuine individuals who make this program happen and who bring joy to the kids we serve and their families.