What is SkatesGiving? Summit County’s unique Thanksgiving tradition brings the community together through hockey
The Thanksgiving holiday comes with a lot of family and community traditions, whether it be your Grandma’s classic stuffing or dressing, your father cutting the family turkey, a long road trip across the country to see family or the interfamily football game that takes place prior to the Thanksgiving meal.
Summit County has its own set of traditions that may vary to other parts of Colorado and the country. For some, it may be a morning skin at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area or a few turns at Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 8. Others, however, may come together to play a few games of hockey at Stephen C. West Ice Arena.
Todd Rankin of Cornerstone Real Estate Rocky Mountains began playing hockey with his family and friends on Thanksgiving morning several years ago.
“The first year I paid for an hour of ice and folks would give me a couple of bucks here and there,” Rankin said. “I had 100 bucks more than what I paid for the ice so I made a donation. The second year I had some more folks show up and kind of the same thing. I am not here to make money.”
After the second year of friends and family coming together to play hockey prior to their Thanksgiving meals, one of Rankin’s friends suggested he put on an event as a fundraiser for the Summit hockey community.
“I think there’s some traction here,” Rankin said of his decision to turn his annual event into a community fundraiser.
SkatesGiving was truly born the third year Rankin decided to rent out ice time for family, friends and the community.
“That third year we ended up getting some sponsors, made a concerted effort to sell pies and sold a little bit of swag,” Rankin said.
SkatesGiving is now entering its fourth year as a fundraiser for the Summit hockey community. Every year more families and members of the community come out on the morning of Thanksgiving to play hockey in order to help raise money for the Summit Youth Hockey’s free mite program.
Over the past three SkatesGivings, the event has raised over $100,000 and is set to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 this year. The money ultimately helps introduce Summit’s youth to the sport of hockey in an inexpensive way.
Summit Youth Hockey’s free mite program is for kids 8 years old and under. The program introduces kids to the sport, allowing them to figure out if they want to become more involved before their parents pay a significant amount of money for gear and other expenses.
“It fully funds our free mites program,” Summit Youth Hockey’s hockey director Chris Miller said. “It’s the reason that we can expand our club and eliminate that financial burdon for all those families.”
SkatesGiving also helps provide scholarships for older players in the Summit Youth Hockey organization and assists with gear as needed.
This year SkatesGiving will give participants one hour and 15 minutes of ice time at either 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. The event attracts seasoned hockey players and beginner skaters alike.
Rankin and other event organizers split participants into teams based on their skill levels. The point isn’t to keep score but rather to build community and allow everyone to touch the puck, much like a family football game would allow everyone to touch the ball.
“The whole idea is to get out there with your friends and family,” Rankin said.
Not only does SkatesGiving impact Summit Youth Hockey, but the event is a prominent Thanksgiving tradition for a lot of Summit locals and seasonal visitors.
“Community is exactly what it is about,” Rankin said. “Thanksgiving is an awesome day, and it is a great way to start the day. It’s a way to catch up with friends in the community before whatever family tradition you have.”
“It helps us build a community,” Miller said. “Since I became director, it’s been a focus of mine to make Summit County a hockey community just like some of these smaller towns in Northern Minnesota or all over the country where the town rallies around the sport.”
Beyond SkatesGiving growing in attendance from one year to the next, the event has also expanded to other areas of the state and country. As of this holiday season, SkatesGiving is offered in Breckenridge, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs and Canandaigua, New York.
One of Rankin’s favorite memories from the past few years of SkatesGiving is witnessing two hockey families face off head-to-head.
“You will have these families where dad is out there with his son who plays college and his daughter who used to play college hockey,” Rankin said. “That family is then facing off against another family that has got their couple of kids and mom is scoring goals. It’s cool because it’s really a day of being friendly and celebrating this awesome community that we live in.”
A minimum of $25 is needed in order to register for the event. Those interested in participating in SkatesGiving with time on the ice or by donating a pie are asked to contact Todd Rankin at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 970-406-0437.
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