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The story of how skating united a Westman community during the pandemic and helped grow the number of youth involved in the sport has won a national competition.

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The story of how skating united a Westman community during the pandemic and helped grow the number of youth involved in the sport has won a national competition.

In 2020, there were only four or five figure skaters in the Minnedosa Skating Club and Jacquie Gerrard, who had just become club president, wondered if the decades-old club could continue.

“Then COVID came along and it was like, ‘Oh, man,’” Gerrard recalled in a recent interview. “But then, as it turned out, it ended up being a real boon for the skating club because then that ended up being something that really became important to the community that year.”

That story is told in the skating club’s winning entry in Skate Canada’s Skate With Us National Contest, “Where the Ice is Our Home.”

“I thought we had a pretty interesting story here in Minnedosa,” Gerrard said. “That we have the lake here, and we had all the skating that happened in 2020 and that really kind of brought everyone together.

“I just thought that would be a cool story to bring forward.”

Minnedosa Skating Club recently won the Skating Clubs/Schools category in the Skate Canada competition. Contestants were asked to create a video to showcase something special about their club or school.

“We wanted the video to be more than just about our club — about our town, about our community, and how we are a skating community where the ice is our home,” Gerrard said.

Clubs participating in the competition were asked to upload their videos to YouTube and they would be judged on their creativity, understanding of theme, overall presentation and technical quality. Judges picked top three videos in each category to be posted on People were then able to vote for their favourites and that determined the winner.

Gerrard said she grew hopeful when the Minnedosa video was chosen for voting and its number of views climbed, but she still wondered if views would translate into votes.

“It was pretty unexpected to get chosen, and then to actually win,” Gerrard said.

The video describes how the community came together during the pandemic and cleared a two-kilometre skating trail around frozen Lake Minnedosa. While friends couldn’t gather in their homes due to pandemic restrictions, they could see each other out on the ice.

Youth are shown enjoying skating on the surface of the lake, and indoors in the community’s arena.

It was produced by Brittany Hewlko who says she was happy to combine two things she loves — figure skating and filmmaking. Hewlko skated and competed with the Skate Brandon club between the ages of three and 18.

“I filmed the entire video on my skates, and it was really cool to be able to showcase the skaters at all ages in our club, from the CanSkate level to our growing grassroots program,” Hewlko said.

Hewlko moved to her fiance’s home down of Minnedosa in the midst of the pandemic and says she witnessed how the skating club grew as it brought the community together.

As described in the video, the Minnedosa Skating club grew from four or five figure skaters in its STARskate program to 15 during the last two years. Meanwhile, the number of skaters in the CanSkate program grew from about 30 to 50.

Overall, the skating club nearly doubled in size, allowing it to pursue new opportunities for its young members, much to the excitement of club coach Michelle Janz.

“I obviously love skating and I love sharing my love with skating,” Janz said. “Seeing so many people out there enjoying the sport is pretty incredible.”

Those involved in the Minnedosa Skating Club say skating is at the heart of the community.

Gerrard described how one resident there clears a trail along its west side Lake Minnedosa, and another sets up a shack where kids can grab snacks for free. The lake is the setting for the annual Skate the Lake hockey tournament. Away from the lake, there town rink on elementary school grounds is used by the skating club and phys-ed classes.

The Minnedosa club’s win in the Skate Canada contest comes with a $5,000 prize, which Gerrard suggests could be used to provide a third coach and increase ice time for the expanded club.

“It will all go back into the program to just get more kids skating more often,” Gerrard said.


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