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

Attendees of the Downtown Red Deer Market, which runs every Wednesday during the summer on Little Gaetz Avenue, have complained about the lack of public washrooms. (Photo contributed by Red Deer Downtown Business Association)
Portable washrooms to be set up in downtown Red Deer this summer

More data is needed before the city invests in a permanent structure

A survey of 3,083 Red Deer residents was done by an online platform on behalf of the City of Red Deer, generating about 11,607 comments.. (File photo)
Red Deerians speak out about COVID-19 concerns in survey

More than 3,000 city residents were surveyed

A Calgary energy company's request for a tax break was turned down by Lacombe County. About $31,000 was owed by a company that went bankrupt and Silverleaf Resources Inc. bought some of their assets.
(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe County turns down oil company’s tax break request

Silverleaf Resources Inc. hoped for break on $31,000 in back taxes

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
From record player to CD

When I first began dating my husband, he drove a little old… Continue reading

Opinion
Ottawa banks on Big Pharma making Canada pandemic-proof

Liberal fireball François-Philippe Champagne may be brand new to his portfolio as… Continue reading

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones
Health: Keep blood pressure under control

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the things you think you… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman watches his solo home run during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros Monday, March 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) clears the puck in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) looks for the rebound during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Monday March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Rugby training gear is shown during a Torotno Wolfpack during a practice at Lamport Stadium in Toronto. Bradford, Featherstone, Leigh, London,  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) and centre Chris Tierney (71) get sandwiched between Flames defencemen Rasmus Andersson (4) and Juuso Valimaki (6) during second-period NHL action in Ottawa on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Most Read