Dollar Skate Days part of effort to keep kids safe in Hazel Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 11, 2019

  Alayna Smith, 4, a student in pre-kindergarten at Webster Elementary, takes to the ice Jan 3 during Dollar Skate Days at the Viking Ice Arena in Hazel Park. Hazel Park Public Schools and the Hazel Park Community Coalition put on the event to provide local kids with a fun and safe low-cost activity.

Alayna Smith, 4, a student in pre-kindergarten at Webster Elementary, takes to the ice Jan 3 during Dollar Skate Days at the Viking Ice Arena in Hazel Park. Hazel Park Public Schools and the Hazel Park Community Coalition put on the event to provide local kids with a fun and safe low-cost activity.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 The Stymac family enjoys lunch at Viking Ice Arena. The family from Hazel Park includes Simon, 13; Elroy, 8; Penelope, 4; Orson, 2; their mother, Angela; Sylvia, 11; and Alice, 7.

The Stymac family enjoys lunch at Viking Ice Arena. The family from Hazel Park includes Simon, 13; Elroy, 8; Penelope, 4; Orson, 2; their mother, Angela; Sylvia, 11; and Alice, 7.

Photo by Deb Jacques

HAZEL PARK — Hazel Park Public Schools, working together with the Hazel Park Community Coalition, recently held a promotion at Viking Ice Arena that aimed to provide kids with positive recreational activities.

Dubbed “Dollar Skate Days,” the promotion ran Jan. 3-5 at the ice arena, located at 1555 E. Woodward Heights Blvd. The arena offered discounted rates of $1 per person for skating, or $3 for skating plus food and beverage, with additional discounts available for families.

The event was first held in early 2018. The promotion has averaged several hundred guests.

“So far, we have received nothing but positive feedback on the event,” said Jared Gajos, executive director of the Hazel Park Community Coalition.

He explained how the idea originally came about.

“I recognized after attending a conference on substance abuse prevention that we needed to create more protective factors in the city,” Gajos said. “A protective factor is a place where students and community members can go without the worry or pressure to engage in illegal activities, drugs or any stress to their mental health. … Places where these negative types of pressure occur are known as risk factors.

“The ice arena is a cool asset in town that isn’t alway utilized as best as it could be,” he said. “After speaking with (HPPS Superintendent) Amy Kruppe about the idea, she informed me that she and a couple other school administrators had the idea to do a discounted event at the ice arena during the wintertime, as well.”

Gajos said that during the winter months, feelings of loneliness and depression may increase, so he hopes Dollar Skate Days also provided an incentive for people to get out of the house and connect with others.

Other initiatives by the Community Coalition have included Narcan training, community talks on substance abuse and mental health, Family Fun Fridays, a suicide prevention campaign, and efforts raising awareness about recreational marijuana use on April 20. The Hazel Park group is one of 19 coalitions in Oakland County that cover such topics.

Kruppe said that the Community Coalition has provided after-school programming and events in the district, including a gaming truck last summer, a student group at the high school, and a leadership conference in Florida. The coalition has also supported the district’s Hometown Huddle and all-night parties for the eighth-graders and seniors.

She made a point to thank not only the coalition, but also school staff, members of the PTA Council and the employees at Viking Ice Arena for making Dollar Skate Days possible.

“As always, Hazel Park has a great community atmosphere,” Kruppe said. “We need to have quality programs for our students to participate in, especially when school is not currently in session. When youth have activities such as these, they are less likely to turn to harmful activities.”