Nearly 300 people flocked to the Veterans Memorial Ice Arena Jan. 21 for the second annual free skating party hosted by the Ice Skating Academy.

The event was held in honor of National Ice Skating Month and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The public was invited to skate for free with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item to be donated to the Somebody Cares New England organization. Skate rentals were donated by the rink, the academy provided free snacks and drinks, and a free raffle was held for free six-week learn-to-skate classes with the academy.

“It was an amazing day,” said Jill Pignatiello, founder and director of The Ice Skating Academy. “We nearly tripled what we were able to donate in food items last year.”

Marlene Yeo, the founder and president of Somebody Cares New England, attended the event with children who would not otherwise have a chance to skate. The ice was packed with children and adults skating to the sounds of a local disc jockey. Coaches and junior coaches on staff with the academy were on hand to tie skates and provide free instruction to anyone who wanted it.

Eric Michitson, a Haverhill High School varsity hockey player, volunteered his time to help make it a fun and safe day for everyone. The Boys & Girls Club of Haverhill also got in on the action. Staff members attended with children from their organization to enjoy a day of skating. Members of the Haverhill YMCA Leadership Team helped Yeo transport the food items back to Somebody Cares New England.

“It was a great day for a lot of people in that the community came together to provide a nice event for our children and their parents.” Pignatiello said. “The ISA is all about bringing people together for the pure joy of ice skating, making it affordable while providing quality instruction. It is our way of giving back to a sport and a community that has given so much to all of us.”

The Ice Skating Academy is a sanctioned United States Figure Skating Basic Skills & Hockey Skills Program that teaches all disciplines of ice skating to residents age 3 through adult. The academy’s professionals teach in a variety of programs across Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, but the academy is a unique program that puts inner-city children and their families first. The tuition is lower than area programs and the professionals promote hard work and perseverance, as well as camaraderie, among all ages and levels as well as philanthropy in the community.

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