Veterans across the U.S. are discovering a new sport with a wealth of benefits: adaptive skating.
Learn to Skate USA and USA Figure Skating hosted five Adaptive SkateFests in 2019. The SkateFests featured sessions where beginner skaters received free stand-up ice skating lessons taught by certified Learn to Skate USA instructors. U.S. Figure Skating received a $52,000 grant from VA to benefit Veterans, active duty military and people with disabilities. Programs were in Arlington, Virginia; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Antioch, Tennessee; and Coral Springs, Florida.
Learn to Skate USA offers an adaptive skating program for skaters with a range of physical or developmental disabilities. Taught by certified instructors, the program engages people for recreation, activity and enjoyment.
“I was so excited to skate, but I had little to no concept of how it would actually happen,” said Cara Liebowitz, an Arlington SkateFest attendee. “The event exceeded my wildest dreams, truly. I’ll never forget it.”
Lisa Musmanno was one of the instructors at the SkateFests. Musmanno, a lifelong skater, is the daughter of a Marine. She said the SkateFests brought families together through a fun program.
“Skating is something you don’t think you can do, but you can,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what age or where you’re from, skating overwhelmingly brings joy. Working with Veterans and hearing some of their stories was amazing. When they’re smiling on the ice and telling you these stories, you realize how sport can make things better, even if it’s for a moment.”
She said skating isn’t just an elite sport and encourages Veterans to give it a try.
“It’s truly something you start to love.”
VA sports grants
VA awarded $14.8 million in grants for adaptive sports programs benefitting Veterans with disabilities and disabled members of the Armed Forces at the end of September.
Adaptive Skating USA is a grant recipient, led by a disabled Veteran. Sherri Putnam began ice skating in 2014 as a form of physical therapy and became a fan of the sport. The nonprofit, headquartered in New Jersey, offers skating at Central Park’s Wollman Rink in New York City.
“Young men and women are typically in excellent health when they join the military,” Putnam said. “Yet Veterans often come home in an entirely different state – they must fight to regain their health, manage a disorder or disability, and restore relationships with loved ones. Adaptive Skating USA’s aim is to empower these individuals to win this battle through the exhilarating and wellness-promoting activity of ice skating. The skills that are learned on the ice can also transcend into other areas of life, thus improving quality of life. In ice skating, just as in life, skaters with disabilities learn to fall, never give up, and get back up to accomplish their dreams.”
To learn about adaptive skating program, go to https://www.learntoskateusa.com/adaptive-skating-lessons/. To find a location, go to https://www.learntoskateusa.com/findaskatingprogram.