Canadian organization gives the gift of skates to kids in need

Calgary Herald
Andrea Cox
February 21, 2015

Canadian org

“When Evan Kosiner, a vivacious and focused 27-year-old from Toronto, speaks about his passion, his voice brims with enthusiasm.

“I just love doing this; it is so rewarding,” he says during a phone conversation from his hotel room in Winnipeg.
He is on a seven-city whirlwind tour of Canada sponsored by FedEx in support of Skate to Great, the charity that Evan founded three years ago.

Evan is visiting major Canadian cities to bring awareness to the program and to kick off a weeklong skate drive. People can donate their gently used hockey and figure skates, as well as all of the other stuff — hockey sticks, helmets and goalie equipment.

This young entrepreneur has several businesses and projects on the go (he’s directing and producing a movie; he owns a radio station and an audiovisual and printing company), but in his spare time he throws himself into giving back to the community through sport and in particular through Canada’s national pastime, skating.

“Business is great and I love it, but for me, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to give back,” he says.

Skate to Great recycles gently used figure and hockey skates, helmets, hockey sticks and hockey equipment by collecting them and distributing them to other charities, community programs and schools across the country that are working with kids.

“Our mandate is to ensure that every kid in Canada has the opportunity to go skating and to learn to skate no matter what their circumstance,” says Evan, adding his research shows that many Canadian children don’t have the opportunity to learn to skate.

“It could be because of financial reasons or because of disabilities, but regardless of the reason, everyone should be able to try it,” he says.

The charity empowers other programs, ensuring that they have what it takes to get the kids out on the ice. It has partnered with organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Courage Canada, a program that works with visually impaired children.

And making the whole concept fly, FedEx jumped on board, volunteering to ship all of the donated skates and equipment to wherever they need to go across the country, for free.

The logistics of running the charity can be a bit complicated and definitely time-consuming, and everyone who helps out volunteers their time.

“What makes it all worth it is when you see the kids on the ice for the first time and their eyes light up and they are smiling. Kids just get to be kids when they are out on the ice,” says Evan, adding that giving the gift of skating was something that hit home for him personally.

“We had two rinks in our elementary schoolyard, both within 200 feet of each other. We would have games of shinny every day after school. It was great,” he recalls.

And he is not alone when it comes to fond memories of time spent on a community rink. Skating is the iconic Canadian winter pastime.

When I mentioned this initiative to my 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, and her longtime friend Dani, their eyes shone.

“That’s so cool,” they chimed.

Both of the girls grew up skating on our inner-city community rink, hanging with friends and enjoying the outdoors — a rink hand-crafted every year by local volunteers in the neighbourhood.

But not only that, our basement storage room (I’m sure like many others) is lined with gently used skates in almost every size (my daughter figure skated for years), all neatly propped up and polished.

After I told my daughter about the initiative, she bounded downstairs to suss out a few pairs, excited about the thought of donating them.

Evan says that so far Skate to Great has collected and distributed more than 12,000 pairs of skates.

The Skate to Great Calgary skate drive kicked off this week at the FedEx Express terminal, located at 24 Aero Dr. N.E. It’s one of four collection sites in the city. Other sites include Play It Again Sports (both locations) and StorageMart.

You can drop off gently used figure and hockey skates, helmets, sticks and hockey equipment at any of the four collection locations until Feb. 27.

And when you drop off your skates, feel free to snap a picture and Tweet @FedExCanada using the hashtag #DonateSkates for a chance to win prizes and to raise awareness of the skate drive.

For more information or to request skates for your organization or charity, please visit www.skatetogreat.org. “