Skating Out of Thin Ice
Publisher Leaves Kids' Faces Frozen with Smiles
by Debra Levy
When your journey through life takes you on to black ice, make a skating party out of it.
At least that’s what SHELTER magazine’s publisher Brian Welsh has done, and, in the process, made Christmas a lot brighter for at-risk children in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Welsh and his wife, Michele, launched Skate for Kids in December 2003 after having spent some time at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia helping to nurse their then-7-month-old son Dylan back from a serious illness. Though Dylan is fine now, the Welshes were moved by the many children there who didn’t have family members to care for them. “More than half the kids have no one visiting them,” said Welsh, “and, sadly, many were in the hospital from violence by family members. It just breaks your heart.”
In an effort to bring some smiles to the youngsters, Welsh rented a local ice skating rink for a Sunday afternoon before Christmas and invited friends, family and co-workers to a skating party. There was no charge; admission was free with the donation of a toy.
“More than 100 people came,” said Welsh, “they brought 130 toys—from Barbies to bicycles. The generosity was unbelievable. Many parents shopped with their young children to find just the right gift to donate. It was a great family day.”
Originally planning to donate the toys to hospitals such as the one that had cared for Dylan, the Welshes learned that the U.S. Marine Corp. program Toys for Tots had those covered, so instead they chose among many other worthy local children’s institutions.
He spent two days right before Christmas personally delivering toys and gifts to St. May’s Villa for Children in Ambler, Laurel House in Norristown and the Presbyterian Church for Children in Rosemont. “They were so grateful and some of the situations so heart-wrenching, that I’d just get back in the car and sit there with tears in my eyes for awhile,” he said.
The Welshes’ efforts did not go unnoticed. This year the skating rink itself and the hockey teams from Hatfield Ice World are joining in the efforts. “We plan to do it every year,” says Welsh. “It’s a good way to make a kid smile, and that gives us a lot of joy.”
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