Danielle Loe Glides Across the Ice: An Adaptive SkateFest Story
Danielle Loe is a typical 13-year-old.
“She’s just a normal kid,” her mother, Cynthia, said. “She helps cook, she helps clean, she does her homework. She’s a typical defiant teenager.”
Danielle is kept busy with her active and busy lifestyle, but there have been hardships as well. Diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, she didn’t walk until she was nearly 2 years old, was diagnosed with a mild heart condition and wears hearing aids. She also went through speech therapy four times a week, including a private therapist, which Cynthia said helps her speak better than others.
“I’ve been pushy to make sure she has everything she needs to be as independent as possible,” Cynthia said.
Though she didn’t start walking until she was about 22 months old due to low muscle tone, Danielle has grown into an active child, and regularly participates in different activities.
“Danielle has been doing hip hop,” her mother said. “She loves to dance.”
That’s why when Cynthia saw an ad for an Adaptive SkateFest in Arlington, Virginia, she decided to take Danielle on an ice skating adventure. Cynthia had skated when she was younger, and Danielle has roller skated but never stepped on the ice before.
“During the time we lived here, I wanted to take her skating, but I didn’t want to put her in normal lessons,” she said. “This was a great opportunity to see if she liked it because it’s a safe environment.”
On the day of the event, Cynthia and Danielle set off on the way to the rink. Cynthia didn’t tell her daughter where they were going in case Danielle would get anxious and refuse to go. When they pulled up to the rink, the opposite happened.
“She saw the rink and said, ‘oh we’re going skating like hockey!’ She loves hockey, and she was all excited at that point,” Cynthia said.
They checked in and put on their skates, and the Learn to Skate USA instructors gave an off-ice orientation before helping everyone step on the ice.
“They had us comfortable on the ground before we took the ice, and that helped a lot,” Cynthia said. “All of the coaches were phenomenal.”
As Danielle took to the ice, Cynthia had no expectations for what would happen.
“I had no idea if Danielle would even go on the ice,” she said. “I was excited as she did.”
To Cynthia’s surprise, Danielle glided across the ice, even skating to the middle of the ice with just the aid of a walker.
“Watching Danielle skate independently was the biggest impact for me,” Cynthia said. “That was awesome. I don’t think she would’ve been up for it if it wasn’t a safe and positive environment like it was — and having the walker to start off with I think helped her, too.”
After seeing the smile across Danielle’s face the entire time she was on the ice, Cynthia wants to enroll her daughter in regular lessons. As a military family (Danielle’s father is in the Navy), they will be moving to Washington state, where Cynthia hopes to find a Learn to Skate USA Adaptive Skating program for Danielle.
“Doing it with Learn to Skate USA is the best way to do it because it’s safe,” she said. “The coaches are trained, and they made everyone — including the family — feel welcomed.”
Learn to Skate USA offers an Adaptive Skating curriculum for skaters with different abilities to learn how to ice skate in a safe and controlled environment. With support from Special Olympics, the program encourages skaters to reach their potential and achieve their goals. More information about adaptive skating and the full adaptive skating curriculum is available at learntoskateusa.com/adaptive-skating-lessons. Want to start your own skating journey? Learn more and find ice skating lessons near you at learntoskateusa.com.