Whoever said blades are all that belong on the ice hasn’t met the Hershey Figure Skating Club’s therapeutic skaters.
“I walk more upright now because I can trust the floor,” said Tonya Campbell, who suffered a tramautic brain injury during a car accident more than 20 years ago.
“I didn’t think he would have ever been able to do something like this,” said Joanna Lochan, of Hershey, about her son Michael, who’s almost entirely non-verbal and has autism.
“It can help with balance, it can help with muscle strengthening and muscle control, and also it can help with self confidence,” said Audrie Schaler, president of the Skating Club.
The therapeutic program caters to those with developmental or physical disabilities, and focuses mainly on kids but also allows adults on a case by case basis.
Each Monday for five weeks, the skaters hit the ice at the Giant Center with walkers, wheelchairs and help via volunteer, in tow.
Michael’s helper, Emily, dresses up as a hockey player as they scoot around the ice; the ‘outfit’ helps ease Michael’s anxiety, according to his mom, who said Emily has been a life saver.
“He did not speak all day today, he came home, he was very upset…his dad mentioned we were gonna go ice skating and he got really excited,” said Lochan. “This was the last thing we were gonna try with him, he came here – he met his ice skating coach, Emily, and he loves it. And he’s doing much better, he’s participating…he really enjoys it here.”
For the only adult in the group, Tonya Campbell, skating is helping to strengthen her core and improve her balance on land.
Despite her car accident decades ago, she still has trouble walking on her own.
“It’s made me trust the floor because when I’m walking on the ice – I’m a little tentative, but it made me learn that I can trust the floor,” she said.
The Club only offers three to four, 5-week sessions of therapy ice skating every year.
You can reach out to Schaller for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Club’s website.