The 20 kids who hit the ice on the last day of a new learn to skate program looked as if they had been skating for years, not just 10 sessions.
The multicultural group of young people, ages 10 to 17, was the first to try the free program run by Westman Immigrant Services.
"On the first day, the ice was foreign to them," instructor Nick Onischuk said. "They couldn’t tie their own skates — and now they are self-sufficient ice skaters."
The group was skating with few difficulties at their 10th and final session at the Sportsplex earlier this week. Most of the participants borrowed skates from the Sportsplex, rather than purchasing their own.
"We are lucky to have been able to work out deals with the Sportsplex to reduce costs and borrow equipment," said WIS youth program facilitator, Samantha Boychuk-Dellezay.
WIS organizes several sports opportunities for children of their clients throughout the year. This was their first try at doing a learn to skate program.
"I watched hockey during the Olympics," said Katya Perez, 11. "The first time I tried skating, I fell backwards and didn’t want to try again. This has been awesome."
Perez moved to Canada from El Salvador two years ago. Like many of the other skaters, she said there are not many opportunities to skate in her old country.
Participants were able to choose either hockey skating or figure skating. Karen Cuadros wanted to learn the tricks that she saw figure skaters do on television.
"When I watched the Olympics, the skating looked so cool and fancy," Cuadros said. "Most of the time here it is winter, so this is all there is to do. There are not many ice rinks in Colombia to learn to skate."
WIS is so impressed with the learn to skate program, that a learn to play hockey program could be the next step, Boychuk-Dellezay said.
"The kids love it and you can see how much progress they have made," she said. "Many have asked if they could learn to play hockey and that is something we want to be able to offer them."
Rocio Bardales immigrated from Honduras two years ago. She is anxious for the new hockey program to start.
"They don’t play hockey at all in Honduras, just soccer," Bardales said. "I can’t pick which I like better until I try it."
At this point, the issue with offering a hockey program is the necessity to get the equipment. Boychuk-Dellezay said they will be looking for used equipment that could help them run the program with less cost to the families.
Meanwhile, the young people weren’t the only ones learning in the program.
"We can learn a lot from these kids," Onischuk said. "We don’t take chances or try new things the way these guys have since they moved to Canada."
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