A local woman has made it her mission to provide free skates to those who want to take advantage of the new rink at Curry Park. Tonya McRae moved to Kemptville with her partner and 8-year-old son about a year ago from Toronto. When they lived in the big city, they used to skate on the rink outside City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square. In Toronto, you could rent skates; but it would cost about $15 a pair, which many lower income families in the city could not afford. “It used to really bother me that in the downtown core nobody could skate for free,” she remembers.
As residents of downtown Kemptville, Tonya and her family have been enjoying the skating rink at Curry Park for the last few weeks. After their first time at the rink, Tonya thought there was an opportunity there to have skates for rent for children and adults who didn’t have their own. “I thought: what if I just got a bunch of skates together and I brought them down to see if some people would use them.”
She posted the idea on the Kemptville Community Bulletin Board on Facebook last week and it spread like wildfire, with over 50 comments from people supporting the idea and offering to donate skates and helmets. “The community is overwhelming me right now,” Tonya says. “I sit sometimes with my husband and I just cry because it’s just so beautiful.”
Tonya will be at Curry Park from 10am-12pm every Saturday with her collection of skates for as long as the rink stays open. Last Saturday, she had eight pairs of skates, a few helmets, and some sticks and pucks, but she is hoping to collect even more so that she can have an even bigger inventory next season.
She is hoping to collect enough skates so that she can eventually run a program where children who size out of their skates can trade them in for a new pair at no cost.
“There will be no fees for anything ever. The whole point of this program is that people can come and enjoy the ice without judgement, or feeling like they are out of place because they can’t afford skates.”
Tonya’s plan is to build on the momentum of the Donate 2 Skate program to loan out other recreational items into the warmer months. In the Spring, she would like to create a Donate 2 Scoot program, where kids can borrow skateboards, scooters and bikes to be used at the skate park in Riverside Park. She is also hoping to collect yard games, frisbees, hacky sacks, balls, or anything that families might have fun using during a Saturday in the park.
“I’m hoping that this changes everything for the kids down here.”
Tonya is currently looking for more donations of skates, helmets, and any other piece of equipment that can be used to have fun on the ice. She is very thankful to all the people who have already donated skates, and the businesses who have got involved, including Classic Graphics, Kemptville Training Centre, To Be Continued, Kemptville Painting and, of course, J.A.M. Productions who made the rink possible this year.
For more information, or to make a donation, you can contact Tonya at 289-927-1240. She also has a bin on her front porch at 112 Thomas Street which is available daily for donations from 8am-8pm.