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Free helmets mean more kids can skate at new Rankin arena

A group of kids were finally on the ice for public skating at the new arena last week, thanks to the efforts of Kandace Graham and the hamlet of Rankin Inlet.

With the new arena in Rankin came new restrictions, safety awareness and stricter enforcement of rules such as no one being allowed to skate on the ice without wearing a helmet.

Easton Naukatsik is all smiles after receiving a new helmet in Rankin Inlet on Jan. 28. Photo courtesy of Kandace Graham

Shortly after the new arena opened, Graham became aware of a noticeable drop-off in the number of school-aged kids showing-up for public skating, which struck her as more-than-a-little odd with how much the community loved the new, beautiful building.

And she figured she might know one of the reasons for the decline.

Graham said once it became strict policy that anyone skating on the ice, including coaches, players, and those out for public skating, family skating or other arena programs must wear a helmet at all times, the number of kids out for public skating dropped.

She said that seemed like a little more than just coincidence.

“We’ve done giveaways for bicycles and hockey skates before in partnership with the hamlet of Rankin Inlet and Agnico Eagle Mines through the Community Initiative Fund,” said Graham.

“So, I applied to that fund to get access to $2,500 for a community project and a helmet giveaway was the project I chose.

“I then reached out to Canadian Tire and requested a quote to see how many helmets we could get landed for the $2,500, and we were able to get more than 40 helmets sent to Rankin.”

Graham said it became a hamlet initiative that saw them trying to target those in the community who currently don’t have access to a helmet, or don’t own their own helmet, to take part in public skating.

She said she hoped the helmet giveaway would help increase the numbers of kids who used to show-up for public skating in the old arena.

“If you went to the old arena after school around 3:30 p.m., you’d have about 100 kids on the ice and that number has dropped since the new arena opened due to kids not having helmets,” said Graham.

“The majority of the kids you saw on the ice at the new arena were already registered in our minor hockey program, so they had helmets.

“We were trying to target those in our community who are not registered with the minor hockey association, so, we excluded the kids, initially, in the giveaway who are registered with minor hockey until everyone had received a helmet who needed one.

“A few coaches then reached-out to us about three or four players who needed new helmets for safety reasons, so we ended up being able to help those kids out too, who are in minor hockey.”

Graham said there are now more than 40 kids in Rankin Inlet who have their very own new helmet.

She said there were a lot of kids lined-up at the arena for the helmet giveaway and, for the majority of them, it was the first time they got to skate on the ice at Rankin’s new arena.

“There were so many happy faces, so many glowing smiles of kids so ecstatic and excited to finally be skating at the new arena, because they now had the proper head protection to be able to take part in the free skating program we have here after school,” said Graham.

“Public skating had more than 50 kids again, once we gave the helmets away.

“Hamlet recreation director David Clark really helped me organize everything and get it out to the community once I initiated the giveaway.

“And, although I applied to the fund myself, the money can’t be dispersed to an individual, so the funds were dispersed to the hamlet and the hamlet administered them.”