Skates collection program to benefit Prince of Wales kids 0
Pictured above in the back row from left are Christina Saxton, Anne Pagano, Bones, the Niagara Ice Dogs Mascot, Steve Yochim, Prince of Wales Principal Tony D’Alessando, and Josh Juhlke, co-ordinator of PenFinancial’s Skates for Kids program. Prince of Wales students (from left) Ann Yenson, Matthew Smith, Preston Mercer, Willow Larsen and Adam Murphy (front) are also pictured in the photo.
Principal Tony D’Alessandro says he can count on two hands how many kids at Prince of Wales School have had the chance to participate in recreational on-ice activities.
But that’s all about to change.
Last Friday, students of the Thorold elementary school learned that come September, each and every one of them will receive an almost-new pair of skates, thanks to PenFinancial Credit Union’s Skates for Kids program.
Annually, the program selects area schools, and with the help of the community, collects gently used pairs of skates for kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity to take to the ice. With the help of Front Row Sports in Thorold—a sponsor that’s been on board since day one—the skates are cleaned up, sharpened and refurbished for students.
While last year Skates for Kids supported three Niagara schools—including Westmount Public School in Thorold—this year, Prince of Wales was chosen as a recipient of the program together with St. Therese in Port Colborne, St. Elizabeth in Wainfleet and Crystal Beach Public School.
Since the program’s inception in 2009, it’s collected more than 1,800 pairs of skates for students in Niagara. This year, the program will collect 165 pairs of skates for students in Thorold.
Additionally, PenFinancial will also coordinate free ice skating sessions at local arenas in October for each school recipient. And to help kids that are new to the ice, it will arrange to have volunteers present on its various skate days to lend a helping hand.
Since arenas now require kids to wear CSA certified helmets, the program will also collect 165 helmets for kids at Prince of Wales. In previous years, Niagara Community Foundation donated money to offset the cost of helmets.
According to Josh Juhlke, Skates for Kids co-ordinator, the program annually supports high needs schools where many of the children and their families live at, or below, the poverty line.
“Most of these students have never been afforded the luxury of learning to skate, participate in on-ice reaction programs or organized ice sports because they don’t own a pair of skates,” he said.
D’Alessandro couldn’t be more thrilled about soon seeing his students get the chance to strap on a pair of skates and participate in a pastime that plays a large role in Canadian culture.
And according to Juhlke, it couldn’t be more obvious.
“This guy is ridiculously excited,” he said of D’Alessandro’s enthusiasm towards the program.
Not only that, Juhlke said D’Alessandro’s commitment to his students was also reflected in Prince of Wales’ application to the program.
“You could see the passion in the application,” he said, adding that it “oozed” with need and excitement—two of the major components staff looked at when selecting its recipients.
He said that’s what made Prince of Wales’ application stand out amongst the many other schools that showed interest in the initiative.
Ultimately, though, D’Alessandro admits he just wants to see all of his students have access to an activity they so often hear about or see other kids participating in.
“I believe in these kids,” he said. “I feel that they should get to have the same opportunities that everyone else gets.”
D’Alessandro said he hopes Skates for Kids will help level that playing field.
“We couldn’t pass this up. It’s a great opportunity for the school and a great opportunity for the kids.
“It’s all about the kids. That’s what we’re here for.”
PenFinancial will host an official Skates for Kids launch for Prince of Wales School in August, to kick off the skate collection portion of the program. Brad Boyes, National Hockey League superstar and Skates for Kids honourary chairman, will once again make a special appearance for that event.