It is perhaps the most Canadian of all recreational pursuits.
The snow flies, water begins to freeze and people young and old across this fair land lace up their skates and hit the ice, either in the confines of their local arena or on a shimmering pond in the great outdoors. For many, it is a quintessential piece of Canadiana.
But not everyone has the opportunity to be a part of that winter fun. And that's an affliction that the newly announced Jumpstart I Love To Skate
program aims to remedy for many children in the nation's capital. The program is a partnership between the Ottawa Senators, Canadian Tire, the Sens Foundation and the City of Ottawa.
"We just take skating for granted up here. We really do," Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said in unveiling the new initiative at a Scotiabank Place news conference earlier today. "And a lot of kids can't afford those skates ... The hard reality is that, for many children in our community, the thought of skating or playing hockey on an ice rink is nothing more than a hope or dream.
"With my event today (the seventh annual Eugene Melnyk Skate For Kids) and our skating partnership with Canadian Tire, we will not only bring that hope one step closer but we'll make their dreams a reality."
Through a city-run application process, the 'Jumpstart I Love To Skate' program will identify 400 children from 20 "priority neighbourhoods" in Ottawa. They'll receive a voucher to purchase the equipment necessary to participate in the program, along with lessons from qualified instructors on outdoor rinks throughout the capital.
"It's a startling statistic that in Canada, one in three families cannot afford to put their kids into sport and recreation programs," said Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson. "This season, together with Canadian Tire, its Ottawa dealers, their Jumpstart program and the City of Ottawa, we're going to change that for 400 kids in 20 neighbourhoods."
Canadian Tire dealers across Ottawa have been taking up collections of new and gently used equipment over the past few months to help launch this new initiative.
"Every year, thousands of children come to Canadian Tire stores across Ottawa to get geared up to play," said David McClenahan, a local Canadian Tire dealer and founder of the Jumpstart program in Ottawa. "We know there are many children who want to play but they can’t because they cannot afford it. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the chance. The Jumpstart ‘I Love to Skate’ program is about breaking down this barrier.
"Thanks to the commitment of the Canadian Tire Ottawa dealers and generosity of the community, we gathered hundreds of pairs of new and used skates, gloves and pads. We will now be able to provide equipment to get 400 deserving kids on the ice and for most, it will be their first time on skates."
For more information about the program or to lend your support, log on to www.canadiantire.ca/jumpstart