'All we need are skates': Group seeks to break ice rink barriers with collection drive
An attainable goal, the chance to encourage more outdoor recreation and a mix of the right people propelled Skates for Superior from idea to reality.
"I think it's really important for communities to have easy, accessible things to do, especially in winter," said Adam Kauppila, a member of the Leadership Superior/Douglas County group that launched the initiative.
The group aims to provide free rental skates at Superior's outdoor skating rinks. They are seeking community donations of skates, helmets, hockey sticks and other protective equipment for the program.
"I know that skating and outdoor recreation and exercise is a big deal in our community," leadership member Rob Scott said. "And it's cold most of the year, so anything we can do to promote physical fitness and families being together and fun activities like skating, the better."
The initiative resonated with Kauppila, who has been playing hockey since he could strap on skates. His wife is also a longtime hockey player. Now that they have two young daughters, skating is a family activity.
Skates for Superior can break down the barriers keeping families off the ice, Scott said.
"If we can tackle the hurdle of providing equipment for people, it's one more excuse we can eliminate for outdoor activity and families having fun together," he said.
"People just have to show up," Kauppila said. "Just show up and participate."
The city had a selection of skates and helmets available to the public, according to Linda Cadotte, director of Superior's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. She said the group's goal of outfitting every city rink with skates could encourage more participation at the city-funded rinks.
"Taxpayers are paying for them to be there, so we might as well get maximum use out of them," Cadotte said. "And if this is one more thing that can bring awareness to the rinks and lower barriers for people to get out and skate, I think it's a great thing."
Before graduating in June, the leadership group laid the groundwork for the program. They formed partnerships with the city and Play It Again Sports. They filed grant requests with Superior, Water, Light & Power and Minnesota Power for monetary donations to fill in gaps.
"All we need are skates," said Kauppila, who works at Superior Water, Light & Power.
Scott, who coordinates senior projects at Superior High School, was key in getting the skate collection started. He connected with the final member of the team, SHS senior Trevor Dalbec. The 18-year-old is a varsity captain for the Spartan hockey team and grew up skating at the Red Barn rink in the city's East End neighborhood.
"I've been skating ever since I was 3," Dalbec said. "I always seem to be on the ice in the winter."
Some of his friends sat out, however, because they didn't have skates or didn't know how to skate.
"This can eliminate that," Dalbec said. "Here's a pair of skates for you. And even if you don't know how to skate, people are nearby to help you."
So he made skate collection the focus of his senior project.
As of Friday, Nov. 30, members of the SHS hockey team had donated four pairs of skates. Following a news release last week about the project, they're hoping for an outpouring of support.
"It would be the coolest thing in the world to get those buckets filled up and skates out to rinks," Kauppila said.
All sizes of skates are needed, from children to adult, used or new. Members of the leadership team said they would need at least 20 pairs of skates to outfit a rink. The city maintains eight outdoor skating rinks, seven of which are staffed. Scott said the leadership group aims to outfit at least two this year.
"It's very feasible to make happen," Kauppila said. "You don't need much. You just need something."
The city cost would be minimal. Cadotte said shelving would need to be built to store equipment, but the city would work with SHS to sharpen the skates.
Leadership Superior/Douglas County projects have enhanced Superior for years. Cadotte said the Children's Memorial Garden, Lake Superior Ice Festival and Superior Dog Park are a few of the initiatives that can be traced back to the program. Many continue long after the class ends.
"It's surprising how many of the projects end up carrying forward year to year," Cadotte said. "Love to see that commitment."
Donation bins are located in the lobby of Wessman Arena, 2701 Catlin Ave.; the Superior Ice Arena lobby, 1015 Oakes Ave.; and Room 41178 at Superior High School.
Donations will be accepted through Dec. 21, which is when the city's rinks are tentatively set to open.