For the past 20 years, the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena Kids On Ice program has used ice sports as a vehicle to instill confidence, a positive self-image, and important life skills in children ages five through 18 from Washington, DC and the surrounding area. Programs are offered at Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FDIA), located in the heart of Ward 7, where 40 percent of children live below poverty level.
For Fran Buntman, parent of twin girls who live in Ward 6 and have been skating at FDIA for over five years, it’s much more than just an occasional sporting activity. “…thanks to FDIA and their programs like Kids on Ice, skating is an import part of our lives. We are a family who would never have been able to afford the usually expensive sport of figure and synchronized skating,” she says. “Together with their Fort Dupont team members, the girls have just participated in a regional synchronized skating competition in Hershey, PA for the second time.”
Kids on Ice Schools Skate for Fitness provides free basic ice skating lessons for DC Public and Public Charter Schools in grades two through 12 as part of the DCPS Department of Health, Physical Education and Athletics curriculum. Given the economic, health, and recreational risk factors many District children face, Schools Skate for Fitness fills a need critical to healthy development.
Beginning with their first tentative steps on the ice, the Kids on Ice participants learn valuable life lessons. With every slip or stumble, skaters learn to find their balance. After every fall, they get up. The programs provide high-quality educational and character-building opportunities both on and off the ice to bolster participants’ ability to build self-esteem while learning respect, fairness, reliability, courtesy, responsibility, sportsmanship, and the value of practice and perseverance.
Once skaters master the basics in Kids on Ice Learn to Skate classes, they can move on to Kids on Ice P.L.U.S. (Positive Living Using Skating) to learn speed skating, ice hockey, figure skating, or synchronized skating and the additional dedication and perseverance required to succeed in those disciplines.
Many of the participants of the Kids on Ice program remain working and skating at FDIA as they get older. “As a current community college student, I know how skating skills positively influence academic endeavors, aspirations, and everyday life,” says Suliman Abdullah, FDIA’s current head speed skating coach. “As an ice instructor, I help kids gain listening skills and show them how to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Classes are presented in a group setting which allows participants to develop the virtues of respect, cooperation, communication, and trust, all while improving physical fitness — and kids who spend time at FDIA don’t just skate. During off-ice programming, skaters learn the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. This is especially beneficial for the majority of Kids on Ice participants who live in the most economically depressed areas in the city and lack resources to obtain this information elsewhere. FDIA is also home to Study Buddies, a weekly drop-in tutoring program for local children in grades K-5. High school students mentor up to 20 children through homework support, social interaction, and recreational activities.
Each year as children graduate from Kids on Ice programs having learned invaluable life lessons, we are reminded that the generous support of the Joseph E. and Marjorie B. Jones Foundation has made great things possible for them.
Layla James, who currently skates at FDIA describes her experience in the simplest terms, “Skating at Fort Dupont makes me feel very, very happy, free, fast, special, excited, graceful and pleased that I’m doing something with my life.”