Shining stars

. September 20, 2012.
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Most Sunday afternoons in late fall and through the winter, you won’t find Steve Towell in front of a television set watching the game. Instead, you’ll find him strapping on skates at The Cube. As a volunteer with Gliding Stars of Findlay, he has spent the last three years helping individuals with various disabilities work on their ice skating technique in anticipation of the organization’s annual ice show in March.

It’s a family affair for the Towells. Steve, an advanced senior refining engineer at Marathon Petroleum, is joined on the ice by his son, Cody, a figure skater with Silver Blades,  along with his daughters – novice skater Kayla and youngest, Claudia – volunteering with Gliding Stars. All four help out with the group, which uses adaptive products to help all members enjoy the fun and freedom of ice skating.

More than just giving back

The show couldn’t go on without the help of some 125 volunteers such as the Towell family and skaters from local schools, skating and hockey programs, and the University of Findlay. The volunteers are there for skating help and friendship. They practice every Sunday from September through March plus participate in the show itself, where the volunteers dress in black and, if necessary, skate alongside their Gliding Star partner. Many of the volunteers come back year after year. “I think most of our volunteers come out with an eagerness to help out, and once they are here they become committed,” says volunteer coordinator Kim Murphy, whose 14 year old son is a Gliding Star. “People go away to college, but they come back on break to help. They fall in love with our stars and stay.”

Melissa Bednarik, a graduate student in physical therapy at the University of Findlay, has volunteered for five years. The volunteer work fits nicely with her career goal of working with children with disabilities, but it’s become more than that. “The people are so nice and the kids are really fun,” says Bednarik. “It made me take an even bigger love and interest in kids with disabilities.”

Towell first became aware of Gliding Stars after seeing the group take the ice following  one of his son’s practices. His family has volunteered for other organizations over the years (which has included two trips to Haiti), but as a former local league hockey player he was especially drawn to Gliding Stars. He has remained active because he enjoys the friendships he has made with the stars, and the simplicity of helping others learn to skate. “There is no question about whether we’ll be here next year or beyond,” he says. “We will.”

The 11th Annual Ice Show will take place on Sunday, March 18, at 2:30pm at The Cube (3430 N. Main St.).  Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at Roman’s Hair Designers, 626 S. Main St., or by calling 419-423-0081.For more info about Gliding Stars, including volunteer opportunities visit www.glidingstars.org/findlay.