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Beryl MacMillan doesn’t hesitate when asked why she has dedicated more than 30 years to a power skating program in Charlottetown.
“That’s the reason right there,” she said, pointing to the young kids on the ice Monday night at Simmons Sport Centre. “It gives me great satisfaction to see groups like this. They’ve been on the ice since Jan. 4. A lot of them weren’t doing much more than walking (when they started).”
Fast-forward about seven weeks and the young boys and girls are skating around pylons seamlessly and enjoying the evening while listening to the coaches. The group was comprised of hockey and ringette players yet there was no puck or ring on the ice. They were having fun while improving their skating skills.
Need to know
• CanPowerSkate is a 10-hour high-energy, instructional power skating program geared to hockey and ringette skaters that focuses on balance, power, agility, speed and endurance. • Skills, techniques and conditioning drills are taught in a progressive format that emphasizes how the skills apply to game situations.
• The Skate Canada program is geared to skaters aged about six or older. There are skill different levels.
MacMillan, who lives with her husband, Barry, in Stanhope, has been involved since the CanPowerSkate program started in Charlottetown in 1987. Initially, her involvement was as a parent with her children taking the program, but soon the reins were handed over to her to run.
Thousands of kids have since improved their skating through the program.
MacMillan will be recognized Wednesday night as the ADL volunteer administrator of the year during Sport P.E.I.’s annual awards night.
“I’m humbled by that award – I really am,” MacMillan said. “Prince Edward Island is a province of volunteers. I grew up in York, and everyone volunteered in York.”
She recalled when the community would host the York Variety Show and it would be sold out for 12 nights with more shows often having to be added to accommodate the demand.
“Volunteering, I guess, is in my blood,” said MacMillan, whose maiden name is Vessey.
MacMillan has also served as the chairwoman of the Queens County Music Festival as well as a figure skating judge and treasurer of the Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association.
“I know the number of volunteers that are involved in all of the sports,” she said. “For me to be chosen from all of those is pretty humbling, it really is because I don't do it for that.”
But ask anyone associated with the program and they will tell you how well-deserving the recognition is.
“She’s the heart and soul of the program,” said Dave Shellington, one of the on-ice coaches with CanPowerSkate in Charlottetown. “The dedication she has to the program is phenomenal.”
When the former UPEI Panthers hockey legend was starting out his teaching career substituting at East Wiltshire Intermediate School, MacMillan was the vice-principal. She asked if he was interested in helping out with the program and he has pretty well been involved ever since.
While MacMillan is quick to credit the coaches for the program’s success, “it’s her that just makes the whole thing tick,” Shellington said.
Jacob MacMillan, a 14-year-old Charlottetown resident, took the program and has been a demonstrator, working with the coaches, for 2 ½ years. He enjoys helping to teach the younger kids how to skate.
“I just like seeing them get better, and that way they can go farther with their hockey career and skating,” he said.
He is also Beryl’s grandson and knows how hard she works to ensure the program runs smoothly.
“I think that’s great … that she’s finally getting recognized for all the good she is doing for the community and all the good she’s doing for the kids that are learning out there.”
Here are the previous 10 recipients of the ADL volunteer administrator of the year award.
2019 Kevin McKenna, baseball.
2018 Natalie Bulger, rugby.
2017 Brenda Millar, volleyball.
2016 Lori Lund, soccer.
2015 Mike James, ringette.
2014 Justin Ellis, rugby.
2013 Derek MacEwen, curling.
2012 Bob Bentley, biathlon.
2011 Jamie Mutch, running.
2010 Mary Ellen McInnis, figure skating.
The program has two big sessions – one in September and another in April – and then runs Monday night sessions through the winter. They quickly fill up with a waiting list of people hoping to get in.
“The program wouldn't be the success it is today without the work that Beryl MacMillan has put into it,” Shellington said. “She makes it run seamlessly.”