Just skating by: Group needs help to keep Traxler tradition alive and well
Tax-deductible donations can be made to Friends of Traxler. Checks should be payable to Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, 26 S. Jackson St., Janesville, WI 53545. Write Friends of Traxler on the memo line. Call (608) 758-0883 or 1-800-995-2379 for more information.
Friends of Traxler would like money to buy items on the following wish list:
-- Ice skates
-- Ice skate storage or shelving
-- Outdoor lights
-- Sound system
-- Hockey sticks, pucks and helmets
-- Skate sharpeners
JANESVILLE Jeff Keena remembers the surprised look on a mother's face when she learned it was free for her child to ice skate at Traxler Park.
The family appeared to be having financial trouble. The child wanted to hit the rink, but the mother seemed worried about the cost of renting skates.
"It's free, Mom," the boy said. "It's free."
In a tough economy, families still can spend the day at the ice rink without spending a dime. Many children return several times after their parents discover skates are free.
The result is more people are using the rink, Keena said, and donations are needed to buy more skates, a hockey box and an outdoor sound system to offer families more.
Keena and his wife, Sally, and several other volunteers have been providing children with skates and managing the warming hut for nine years, but they need more volunteers and money to take the rink to the next level.
"We're all here because we want to see something for the kids," Jeff said. "It doesn't cost anything to be here, just a little bit of time."
The Keenas started the nonprofit Friends of Traxler to bring the ice rink back to its glory days.
Jeff, 45, grew up going to the ice rink in the late 1970s. At that time, Traxler Park had three rinks and was a social hub in the winter. Hundreds of people gathered in the park regularly.
The Keenas know the rink will never be that popular again, but they still want to provide free skating to local children.
"I don't think there are enough opportunities in Janesville to do something constructive at no cost," Sally, 41, said.
Volunteers make sure kids are getting fitted with skates. They light the fire in the warming hut. They sell candy and soft drinks at the concession stand. Many donate their own money to the cause.
Donations cover the cost of items such as skates, the popcorn machine and the refrigerator. The city floods the rink and pays for powering the hut.
Kids regularly skate and play hockey in the park. Parents can be seen watching from their cars. Skaters often shuffle in and out of the hut.
Someday, the Keenas said, they hope to attract more children to the ice.
After all, it's free.