People of all ages are being supported in their goal of learning to skate, thanks to the Curtis Klassen Memorial Fund (CKMF).
The group purchased 10 new-and-improved Skate Helpers, specifically to assist the local Regional Connections' Learn to Skate program for newcomer children that ran earlier this winter at the Altona arena. However, the devices are being stored at the Millenium Exhibition Centre and are available to everyone during regular public skating hours.

Eric Hildebrand, a spokesperson for CKMF, says this checked the committee's box of supporting the community.

"The Curtis Klassen Memorial Fund traditionally donates money in three areas on an annual basis," he explained. Two of those areas area are education, in the form of scholarships at W.C. Miller Collegiate, and grassroots sports. "Those are traditionally fairly easy to find causes to donate funds towards." However, the third area, community, can prove to be a bit more challenging he said. "We thought this one fell into that category. So, we're really happy to be able to do this."

Val Klassen works with the SWIS program at Regional Connections' Altona location, the organization that spearheaded the Learn to Skate program and submitted the funding application to CKMF.

"We are just really grateful that they were willing to fund these Skate Helpers," she said. "To see the excitement that the kids have to be able to use something like this. For some of them, it's pretty overwhelming to get on the ice the first time, to see that they are actually able to learn to skate on ice that they haven't experienced before. It's been really neat to see after one or two times and how they catch on a start to skate."

"For many of them, their responses have been, 'wow! Now I'm doing a Canadian sport. Something that Canadians do'," added Klassen, noting this opportunity has created a ripple effect. "Some of them (parents) decide to put their kids into CanSkate or figure skating. Those are great other opportunities. A couple of children, they get more confident, and they want to try hockey. For some of them, it's just to learn so they can be comfortable when their school goes skating."

Mark & Sylvie Loewen and Ginette & Margo Redding testing out the new Skate Helpers at the Millennium Exhibition Centre.Mark & Sylvie Loewen and Ginette & Margo Redding testing out the new Skate Helpers at the Millennium Exhibition Centre. (Supplied photo)

Not only are the Skate Helpers easy to use and ideal for children ages 3 to 9 years old and older, but taller children as well as adults can use two of them stacked together. “There really are not a lot of options when it comes to strong, sturdy skating aids. I think these units will long outlast the traditional style of skating aids made with thin plastic or metal," added Hildebrand.

According to Klassen, between 30 and 40 children, and even their parents, hit the ice during this year's Learn to Skate program.