“I looked at the little boy and told him he didn’t need to skate to curl, and his eyes lit up. ‘I’m going to curl this fall,’ he said. It was music to my ears.”
When new Rocks & Rings instructor Cathlia Ward arrived at the Unicorn Children’s Centre in Riverview, N.B., to present her first session using FloorCurl equipment, she wasn’t sure what to expect from the kids.
“None of them had ever curled before,” says Ward. I was so excited to introduce my favourite sport for the first time.”
The best part of the session came at the end when Ward asked the kids who wanted to try curling and every one of them raised a hand – except one boy.
“As I was looking at all the hands, I heard one little boy shout out that he wanted to learn how to curl, but he didn’t know how to skate,” Ward remembers. “I looked at the little boy and told him he didn’t need to skate to curl, and his eyes lit up. ‘I’m going to curl this fall,’ he said. It was music to my ears.”
And that’s music to the ears of Chad McMullan of RockSolid Productions Inc., too. A former competitive curler himself, McMullan came up with the idea of using gym-friendly equipment to introduce school children to curling. With its mandate to grow the sport of curling in Canada, the Canadian Curling Association eagerly partnered with Capital One Rocks & Rings to reach the next generation of curlers.
"Getting kids off the couch and out to the curling rink is one of the CCA's top priorities,” says Greg Stremlaw, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer. “Thanks to the partnership between the CCA and Rocks & Rings, we have introduced curling to over 500,000 Canadian kids so far, which is an amazing success story.”
But despite the overwhelming support, Rocks & Rings finds itself facing ongoing challenges, especially when trying to bring the program to some of the more remote corners of the country.
“There is lots of interest for the program and we have visited remote communities,” says McMullan. “But it requires extra resources and additional fees from those schools to offset the instructor’s costs. It’s tough to reach every school that wants us to come. Donations to the CCA would help us cover some of the costs so we could visit those schools in rural areas. ”
The CCA and Rocks & Rings would like to reach out to new communities, do more community centre programming and visits to Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as Scouts and Girl Guide troops.
“(We want to) make curling cool,” McMullan says. “Have kids experience it year in and year out in their gymnasiums so it becomes a common sport for them like hockey, soccer and basketball. This makes it much easier for them to decide to take up curling in the future because it is no longer that weird or unheard-of sport.”
A donation through the For the Love of Curling Program will help reach more kids and new communities. By supporting CCA youth development programs, such as the Rocks & Rings partnership, and scholarship funds, curlers can help more kids become lifetime lovers of the sport.
“There are so many more children we need to reach,” Stremlaw says. “Working with donors, curlers and Rocks & Rings, we can help reach more schools and children across the country. We want to work together to make sure curling stays in the hearts of Canadians for generations to come."