Carmen Ballarte ’12, Katherine Burgos ’12, and Daina Spencer ‘12 spent their Friday evening lacing up their skates and hitting the ice with more than 30 Genevan youngsters from the Boys and Girls Club as part of HWS’s JumpStart Program.
“This is our third season on the ice,” said organizer Michael Bersani. “I used to take my two kids, who were then attending the afterschool program with the Boys and Girls Club, to the rink often. When skating, my boys and I did not notice any kids from the Club. Many of the children at the Club come from lower-income households, and I figured maybe they were not getting the opportunity to skate.”
So Bersani contacted the Boys and Girls Club to organize weekly afterschool trips to the rink and recruited HWS students to assist. “I felt this was a fun, healthy activity that would be good for them, would keep them active in the winter, avoid obesity and other health risks, and just teach them how to have good, clean fun. We have been skating ever since.”
The HWS students who volunteer make the event possible. “The Hobart and William Smith students are great. They help with the skates, and then actually skate with the kids, too, and help get their skates off at the end. The kids really love to spend time with the HWS students, and they are great role models.”
The experience is also positive for HWS volunteers. This was Ballarte’s second time volunteering at the ice rink. “I didn’t have anyone to help me skate when I was young,” she explains, “so it’s very rewarding to be able to spend time with these kids every Friday.”
Burgos agrees: “It’s a nice way to give back and an easy way to be a part of JumpStart. The best part is when the kids say ‘thank you.’ It’s great to be able to help them have fun out on the ice.”
Interested in helping out? It’s easy! “We meet at the rink at 6:30 every Friday, help the kids put on their skates, skate with them, and are all done by 8:15 with big hugs and ‘thank yous.’ They’re so grateful because many of them wouldn’t be able to get to the rink otherwise,” Bersani says.
All entries and skate rentals are free for Boys and Girls Club members and volunteers. For more information, contact Michael Bersani at email@example.com. Bersani is the husband of Alejandra Molina, director of Intercultural Affairs at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
In the photo above Jumpstart Volunteer Carmen Ballarte ’12 shows area youth from the Boys and Girls Club how to stay on their skates at The Cooler.