Skating program combats isolation

Gabby Maravilla of Red Deer put one foot in front of the other and cautiously shuffled into the middle of the arena, arms stretched wide out for optimum balance.

Gabby Maravilla of Red Deer put one foot in front of the other and cautiously shuffled into the middle of the arena, arms stretched wide out for optimum balance.

It was the first time the 16-year-old from El Salvador had ever been on skates.

“I’m a bit scared,” she said, knees starting to wobble as she turned around to head for the boards. “But it’s exciting too. It’s fun, this gliding feeling.”

Maravilla and almost 50 other immigrant youth between the ages of 10 and 19 laced up their blades on Thursday for the first time at the Kinex Arena in Red Deer as part of the third annual Learn to Skate program presented by the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE).

Maravilla said for her the session wasn’t just about trying to shave off some ice; it was also an opportunity to hang out with her friends and meet other adolescents new to Canada.

It was the same reason Aldrin Lapis of the Philippines said he decided to come out with a friend and put on a helmet.

“It’s hard to do but I wanted to do it so here I am,” Lapis, 17, said, dusting off his knees after a fall. “It’s all for the experience. This is very Canadian.”

An attraction to the event this year was Trent Hunter, a former New York Islander and current assistant coach of the midget AAA Optimist Chiefs. Along with 15 other volunteers from the RCMP, St. John Ambulance and CARE, Hunter was on hand to give the new Canadians a lesson in “bending your knees,” learning how to stop, pivot and all the other ins and outs of coasting around a slippery rink.

The program runs for two days from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday’s session featured a basic skating instruction and various drills, wrapping up with a fun hockey lesson and game.

Today’s session is a “practice day” at Bower Ponds to try out the previous day’s exercises and take a glide on an outdoor rink.

Rachel Pinno, CARE’s settlement practitioner with immigrant youth, is one of the main organizers of the event and said the Learn to Skate program is about preventing feelings of isolation during the winter holidays.

“Three years ago, one of the youth mentioned to me she really wanted to learn how to skate and over Christmas is the perfect time to get such a program running,” Pinno said.

“Christmas break for some of the immigrant and refugee kids can be a really lonely, boring time in that it’s a new place and it’s cold outside and they miss their friends at school so they don’t know what to do or where to go. This is an activity that gets them out of the house and allows them to become more familiar with the community.

“It gives them a taste of some of the hobbies and past times Canadians really enjoy and things that they can hopefully continue doing with their friends and families.”

The City of Red Deer is a partner in the free event and CARE provides all the equipment from skates to helmets to hockey sticks.

Last year, around 40 youth showed up to strap on the blades. Pinno said she estimates just around 50 hit the ice this time around.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer County approves home-based hair salon

Salon would be located in rural residential area just west of Innisfail

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom's Diner's Facebook page)
‘No More Lockdowns’ rodeo rally organizers charged under Public Health Act

RCMP issued a notice to appear in court for the organizers of… Continue reading

Red Deer city council has no immediate plans to discuss increasing penalties for non-compliance with the municipal mask-wearing bylaw. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Red Deer not following Calgary’s example to hike penalties for COVID-19 rule-breakers

Mayor says an update on complaince complaints will soon be provided

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Heidi Illingworth, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, takes part in an interview at her office in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Watchdog worries federal benefit for parents of missing, murdered kids going unused

OTTAWA — The federal ombudsman for victims of crime says she remains… Continue reading

Labour Minister Harry Bains arrives at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, June 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
British Columbia to give workers three days of paid sick leave for COVID-19

VICTORIA — British Columbia will give all workers up to three days… Continue reading

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Coalition says users were shut out of drug decriminalization proposal, demands redo

Advocates are calling on the federal government and the City of Vancouver… Continue reading

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe waits in line at a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic at Evraz Place in Regina on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Other provinces looking at Saskatchewan’s plan to tie COVID-19 vaccines to reopening

CALGARY — Neighbouring provinces are eyeing Saskatchewan’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions… Continue reading

This undated photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows a group of bighorn sheep in North Dakota. Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Bihrle/North Dakota Game and Fish Department via AP, File
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium: scientist

EDMONTON — Some herds of Alberta’s provincial animal are heavily contaminated with… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation he wants COVID health disaster

EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting an accusation from Alberta’s… Continue reading

In this June 8, 2017, file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace, Mich., as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackinaw City, Mich. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP, File
On eve of deadline, Canada makes case in court to keep Line 5 pipeline running

WASHINGTON — The federal government is stepping up its fight with Michigan… Continue reading

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, tosses the ball for a serve to Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Denis Shapovalov books spot in second round of Italian Open

Shapovalov to face world Stefano Travaglia, of Italy

Most Read