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Oshkosh Doctor Starts Skate Club to Promote Youth Fitness

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Photo: Video by nbc26.com

Oshkosh Doctor Starts Skate Club to Promote Youth Fitness

By Stacy Engebretson. CREATED Mar 5, 2014

Oshkosh, WI -- Dr. Eric Smiltneek has some fancy footwork that has come with years of practice. Since the age of four, he has been gliding across the ice. Now, he's passing on his passion for skating to younger generations.

"It was fairly a simple idea that has really generated a lot of enthusiasm," said Dr. Smiltneek. 

"We were out skating on perfect early season ice, and we've always commented how nice it would be to get more kids outdoors in this beautiful place we live. So we thought, let's just approach Webster Stanley leadership and see if we can get the kids out for a skate club," said Oshkosh School Board member, Steve Eliasen. 

The idea was conceived last December. Just weeks later, Dr. Eric's Skate Club was born. It's now 60 members strong. Every Thursday after school, students from Webster Stanley Elementary and Middle School walk across the street to skate on Miller's Bay on Lake Winnebago. 

"I've learned how to waddle around the ice," said 6th grader Victoria Palkovich.

"I like it because it gives you something to do," explains 4th grader Andrew Garland.

Whether it's learning to twirl or shoot a puck in the net, the kids are getting fit.

"It didn't seem like exercise, but it's fun because you're just playing with your friends," said 6th grader Cassie Ochoa.

"Just being outside, moving around a bit and realizing that one doesn't have to stay huddled up and hunkered down in winter," adds Eliasen.

The kids are learning that there's no better way to cure cabin fever than utilizing the beautiful natural resource right in their own backyard.

"It's just really about getting our students to understand that we really have a gem right across from our school and our neighborhood which is the water, and now the ice, and that we can use it all year round," said Webster Stanley Middle School Principal Philip Marshall.

It's an eye-opening lesson for the 3rd through 8th graders who are grateful to Dr. Eric for creating the club.

"I think he's very kind to take time out of his day to come and help us and give us this opportunity," said 6th grader Danae Blabaum. 

"I think it's really been a lot of fun and pretty rewarding," adds Dr. Smiltneek.

It's an activity that's moving kids away from their computers and into the outdoors to learn the lifelong skill of skating.

Oshkosh's Dr. Christina Lehner, a 2002 U.S. Olympic speed skating alternate, was also instrumental in getting kids signed up for the club. A grant has also allowed ThedaCare and the Neuro Spine Center to provide free skates and helmets so that all students, regardless of income, are able to participate.