Janesville couple ensures kids can skate
Jeff and Sally Keena
Ages: Jeff, 46; Sally, 42.
Occupation: Jeff, polisher operator, RathGibson; Sally, product data administrator, Professional Equipment, a division of Lab Safety Supply.
Family: Two sons, ages 18 and 19.
Ice time: They’re at the rink five days a week.
Wish list: Money for more ice skates, an indoor/outdoor sound system, hockey sticks, pucks, helmets, a skate sharpening machine and firewood.
To donate: 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.
JANESVILLE In tough economic times, Jeff and Sally Keena make sure families can still have fun for free.
They voluntarily provide the ice rink at Traxler Park, ice skates and a warming house without charging a dime.
When kids from low-income families learn the cost, the looks on their faces are priceless, the Keenas said.
“That’s like pay day right there,” Jeff said.
“That’s what keeps us going,” Sally added.
The two started the nonprofit Friends of Traxler nine years ago and continue running the organization. About a dozen volunteers help.
Volunteers open the park’s warming house and run the concession stand. They fit kids for skates and spray the ice. Other duties include shoveling walkways and stoking a wood fire.
Cliff Englert, former city parks supervisor, worked with the Keenas for eight years. He said the couple’s community spirit is rare.
“They really have an outstanding dedication,” Englert said.
Inside the Keenas’ home along Willard Avenue on Janesville’s west side, their love of skating is obvious.
They have Janesville Jets cowbells, an ice-skating music box and a snowman on ice skates displayed in their living room. Decorative ice skates also were placed under their Christmas tree last year.
They’re embarrassed about being recognized for their work, but they talk passionately about how far the ice rink has come.
They prefer to remain in the background, but they know any attention focused on the rink could benefit kids.
They’re quick to credit volunteers and businesses helping them.
Jeff grew up skating at Traxler Park when the rink was a wintertime social hub. The park had three rinks. Hundreds skated.
Sally was raised on an Evansville farm. She skated a little. Skating is Jeff’s love, but she has become passionate about their work.
The couple brought their sons to Traxler Park in the 1990s.
The park had one rink and benches. The warming house was closed; skates weren’t offered, and no bathrooms were available. The rink was far from its glory days.
Jeff decided he wanted to revive the rink. He hatched a plan and approached the city.
“I just wanted to provide something that was provided to me,” he said. “I grew up with it, and I wanted to give my kids the same chance.”
Offering free recreation during the recession has brought more skaters to the rink, the couple said. About 200 people could be on the ice on weekends.
The couple expects the rink’s popularity to grow.
The Keenas would like to expand the ice to have separate areas for hockey and free skaters. An outdoor hockey box could be added. A cement slab could be used for summertime roller hockey. Money for more skates also could help.
Running the ice rink keeps the Keenas busy, but they don’t intend to stop soon.
“It’s just a family tradition now,” Jeff said.