On Mondays from 6-7:45 p.m., the Mercyhurst Ice Center shines with smiles as students and faculty enjoy a night of skating while also volunteering their time to instruct individuals with disabilities.
They are taking part in Gliding Stars, a non-profit organization serving individuals with disabilities with opportunities to develop ice-skating skills.
The Ice Center, being handicap accessible, has hosted host the organization since it began 10 years ago when Jack Shultz introduced it to the community.
To this day, Mercyhurst provides the organization with the time and place needed to make a difference happen.
The number of participants and volunteers has grown in the past years. This year, 87 people come to skate, compared to the 28 who participated the first year.
“Helping out makes their day, and they know that you are their friend for a day,” Mercyhurst Preparatory School sophomore Cielopris Chak said.
Without volunteers the program would not be able to run. This year 97 volunteers help to provide the skaters and their families with friendship, encouragement and support. Volunteers can make a difference on the ice, at the rink or at the office, depending on how they want to help.
“I love seeing them smile and just helping them progress,” senior Shea Grimaldi said.
The skills acquired by the participants are then put together in an end-of-session ice show choreographed by volunteers. This year, the performance will take place March 27.
“(The skaters) put in so much work into the show with their volunteers and they are eager to show their family and friends what they have been working on. The show is full of energy and excitement,” volunteer Cindy Dixon said.
Director and Coach Linda Althof says that the program’s future plans are to keep it growing and keep it going.
Volunteering or observing, the smiles here are guaranteed to be contagious.