MAHONING VALLEY Skaters get rolling to help 9-11 victims

Local children laced up their skates in Salem, and other area rinks weighed benefit events.
Kids across the country are in a mode of patriotic fervor, making American flags using construction paper and crayons, donning red, white and blue, tying patriotic ribbons to their bicycles and polishing classroom performances of "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."
They've collected coins, written thank-you letters to firefighters and police officers, and a few have written letters of encouragement to schoolchildren whose classes have been displaced as a result of the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11.
The kids have worked hard. Now, it's time to have fun. But they aren't forgetting their patriotic duty. Freedom Skate Across America, presented by the Roller Skating Association International, which is based in Indianapolis, will allow skaters -- children as well as adults -- to have a good time while raising funds for national relief efforts.
The association invited member skating centers to sponsor Freedom Skate events at their facilities with proceeds going to the American Red Cross.
Response: Thus far, response from skating centers choosing to participate "has been great," said Ingrid Thorson, director of communications for the association. A large skating center in California has already raised $8,000, she said, but most member rinks are still planning their events.
Salem Skate Center was the first area rink to hold its fund-raiser. The event, on Tuesday, was a grass-roots effort by the kids who frequent the rink, said Paula Juillerat, who co-owns the facility with her husband, Richard.
"The kids are our best promoters," she said. "This is a smaller rink, but we have a great group of kids who come here. They were very, very excited about this project. They feel like they are doing something. It doesn't matter where they go to school. When they're here, there's no rivalry. They were all very united on it. It was their project. We provided a place, but the kids worked on it."
Word of mouth: Skaters who frequent the rink distributed fliers announcing the event to family and friends, Juillerat said. "We have a good rapport with the kids that come here, and they tell their friends." Word-of-mouth advertising is the best promotion an event can get, she added.
Admission to the two-hour skating session was $3 per skater, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross. With 109 skaters, Salem Skate Center raised $329 in spite of a torrential rainstorm that flooded streets and knocked out power in the area.
The Skate Connection in Boardman frequently is the host of fund-raisers for various causes in cooperation with local radio or TV stations, said Kim Kyle, marketing director.
Putting on a Skate Across America event is something Skate Connection owner, Lee Sawyer, would gladly do if the rink can find a sponsor, she added. "We can't do it alone because we can't market these events -- we can't afford the advertising." Joining forces with TV or radio stations that can promote events on the air enables Skate Connection to participate, Kyle explained.
A fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society slated for Sunday is a joint effort between Skate Connection and Clear Channel, Kyle said. Skate Connection donated the rink, Clear Channel handled promotions and all proceeds from admissions will be donated.
During fund-raisers, the skating rink barely breaks even, Kyle said. All proceeds from admissions go to the cause, and funds generated from skate rentals, video games and the snack bar go to the rink.
On some occasions, such as an annual event to collect toys for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign, she added, admission and skate rental are free when skaters donate new, unwrapped toys valued at $5 or more.
At other rinks: At Champion Rollarena Inc., Champion, and Skate Zone, Austintown, rink owners are considering Skate Across America events.
"We're not doing anything at this time," said Keith Brainard, owner of Champion Rollarena. "We just got the information, and we're looking at it, but our schedule is maxed out right now. We'll probably do something in November."
"We're definitely interested in holding a Skate Across America event," said Larry Maynard, owner of Skate Zone. "We may do it in November or December."
Right now, the managers at Skate Zone are busy planning the rink's annual food drive, which takes place in December, and will have a brainstorming luncheon with 350 area churches to discuss how Skate Zone can better meet the needs of their youth organizations, Maynard said.