Learn To Skate USA
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Learn To Skate USA

The Ice is Calling, and YOU Answered for 2018 #NationalSkatingMonth!

“The Ice Is Calling” and hundreds of clubs and rinks across the country answered the call to celebrate National Skating Month in 2018. More than 560 NSM kits were sold and more than 500 free events were hosted across 48 states, marking the most successful year in the campaign’s 16-year history.

“This was a special year for U.S. Figure Skating and our affiliates as the 2018 Olympic Winter Games were being held in PyeongChang, South Korea,” Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin, senior director of membership at U.S. Figure Skating, said. “In recognition of this major event, we extended National Skating Month festivities through February, giving everyone the opportunity to lace up their skates and step out onto the ice.”

Member organizations welcomed nonskating families into their rinks to experience and celebrate skating for the first time, without having to worry about the cost. Most events included free lessons, skill demonstrations and off-ice activities such as photo booths, raffles, giveaways and informational sessions, while others incorporated special features such as Olympic-themed programming and performance exhibitions.

Contributing to this year’s success, the campaign used a revamped tagline [“The Ice is Calling”] and introduced new items in each NSM kit like bulletin board take-over packs and photo booth props. There was also an overhaul of support materials, with examples of Olympic activities to incorporate, ways to use social media for free promotion and ideas to engage participants beyond the traditional open house model.

“Growing the sport of skating is what National Skating Month strives to achieve, and we were absolutely overwhelmed by the response of our organizations and the skating community,” Wehrli-McLaughlin said. “This year we saw record-breaking participation, and Learn to Skate USA membership numbers for the month of January were the highest in history. This year was an astounding success, and we thank all of our amazing organizations, their staff and volunteers, and anyone else who came out to celebrate.”

As veteran supporters of NSM, Mentor Ice Arena in Mentor, Ohio, hosted more than 600 skaters at their celebration in January, which included skating lessons, an off-ice Q&A session, and plenty of fun that painted the picture of what NSM is all about.

“We host this event every year, and every year it grows,” Colleen Thomas, program director for the City of Mentor Ice Arena, said. “This being an Olympic year may be a reason we did have a big draw. I look at it as if we get one or 20 new skaters in our Learn to Skate USA program, we have brought ice skating into a family and brightened a child’s life because of it.”

Mentor Ice Arena capitalized on its success by hosting a second free event in February, which included an Opening Ceremony, open house, hockey, broomball and an ice carver. More than 500 people attended the second event.

Here are some other highlights from 2018 NSM:

Louisville Skating Academy — Louisville, Kentucky

The Louisville Skating Academy had 140 participants at its event, which kicked off with a demonstration by its two synchronized skating teams and three of its singles skaters. With the crowd hyped up, group instruction and free skating began, followed by raffles for three swag items and $100 toward Learn to Skate USA classes. With recruitment a goal, organizers focused on creating an event with fun music and a selfie booth on the ice.

“We tried to keep the experience flawless by making sure we had enough volunteers working the lobby, helping with the registration table, skate rental and just answering general questions,” Jessica Mills Kincade, Louisville’s Learn to Skate USA special events director, said. “We also had an off-ice craft table for painting and coloring. We saw a higher-than-usual retention rate in our Learn to Skate USA classes that started the week after our event.”

North Atlantic Figure Skating Club — Falmouth, Maine

Kicking off the new year with “Come Skate With Us” day, the North Atlantic Figure Skating Club hosted a two-hour event with lessons, free skating, demonstrations by club skaters and time dedicated to staff and skaters to share all the things they love about skating.

NAFSC Program Coordinator Caryn Bickerstaff reported an excellent turn-out that signed up new skaters for the winter Learn to Skate session, bringing out the excitement of the Winter Games with a festive playlist and handmade Olympic-themed signage.

North Olmsted Parks and Recreation Department — North Olmsted, Ohio

Braving an intense snowstorm that rolled in the morning of Dec. 30, 300 attendees made it out to North Olmstead’s NSM celebration. Learn to Skate USA staff ushered new skaters into one rink for lessons, while other instructors assisted with tying skates and helping out in the main rink. Ten raffle prizes were given out during the free skating time, and a DJ played a fun soundtrack throughout the day.

Participants say a highlight of the event were the “When I Skate I Feel” posters provided in each NSM kit, each filled out by attendees throughout the day’s activities.

“We all loved hanging the posters around the rink,” Betsy Drenski, North Olmsted Parks & Recreation commissioner, said.

Hollydell Ice Arena — Sewell, New Jersey

Bundling a NSM open house with a Destination PyeongChang Skate-A-Thon, Hollydell Ice Arena drew 139 skaters to its event.

“I estimate more than 90 percent of skaters in attendance were not currently involved with any of our programs,” Hollydell Ice Arena Figure Skating Director Amy Griffith said, highlighting the strong promotion and recruitment that took place beforehand.

In preparation for the event, the Hollydell FSC entered a parade and brought flyers to pass out when mingling with patrons, sent out press releases to local newspapers, utilized social media and advertised within the rink.

Iceland Arena — Flint, Michigan

Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission teamed up on Feb. 10 with the Flint Iceland Arena, the Greater Flint Health Coalition’s Commit to Fit program and Iceland Competitive Edge Figure Skating Club to host the second annual “Adventures in Winterland,” an effort to promote healthy lifestyles to the community through ice skating and other activities. Free skating lessons and skate rentals, a cooking demonstration for children, a skating obstacle course and an opportunity to meet Flint Firebird’s mascot Hot Wing were just some of the fun activities for those taking part in the event.

“Despite the winter weather and poor road conditions, we still brought in more than 250 community members,” Karen Lemieux of Iceland Arenas, said. “The event was such a success.”

Columbia Figure Skating Club — Columbia, Maryland

Columbia FSC capitalized on Olympic excitement, holding an Opening Ceremony where all of the skaters glided through the flags with Olympic music playing. The ceremony was followed by an Olympic torch relay, in which skaters were divided into teams and moved across the ice with homemade torches in relay fashion. Participants moved on to a slalom skating competition through cones, and ended their experience with figure skating, either pairs or solo, and a speed skating competition. In addition to goodie bags packed with items from NSM kits, all participants were given gold medals — cookies wrapped in gold paper and a red ribbon.

“We are a club of 200-plus members with a great mixture of recreational skaters, test skaters and competitors,” Chris Tincher, president of the Columbia FSC, said. “We hold two open house events each year to recruit from our rink’s Learn to Skate USA program — one in the Fall and one in January. We had approximately 35 prospective members join us for the activities.”

City of Kettering Ice Arena — Dayton, Ohio

The City of Kettering hosted its 18th annual season of “Absolutely Free National Skate Week Clinics,” doubling its fun for 2018 NSM.

“Knowing the Olympics always generates interest in skating, we decided to host two National Skate Week Clinics,” Lisa Reibly, representing the City of Kettering Learn to Skate USA program, said. “Our first event was in January and the second in February during the Olympics. These two-hour events included free lessons, free skate rental, free open skate, free prize giveaways and free exhibitions from some of our South Dayton FSC skaters, including our SDFSC Ice Force synchronized skating teams.”

The event also featured photo booths, information tables for the SDFSC and Learn to Skate USA group lessons, and welcomed around 550 participants to the ice.

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