Sudbury man devoted to keeping outdoor rinks active for youth
SUDBURY -- As the City of Greater Sudbury actively seeks new volunteers to manage its outdoor rinks, it is thankful to dedicated volunteers, like Thomas Gunn.
Gunn has been volunteering at the Rosemarie Playground in New Sudbury for 40 years.
He began taking his daughters to the area’s skating club that was offered at the time.
"They joined the skating club that was here. The next weekend, my wife took over the club, and with a friend of hers, they ran the CanSkate program for years," says Gunn. "When the girls outgrew the program, they went home, and we didn’t. We stayed and ran the playground since then."
With winter in full swing, the city of Greater Sudbury is asking for more volunteers like Gunn to help maintain its outdoor rinks.
"People like Tom don’t come along all the time," says Cindy Dent, manager of recreation for the City of Greater Sudbury. "All the children in the community know Tom, and the reason they go to the outdoor rink is because it’s a safe place with him there, and they know that they are going to see a smiling face that is going to have the ice ready when they are ready to play. So, the type of commitment that comes from someone like Tom is valued by the city and we need more Toms!"
Sadly, Gunn’s wife passed away three years ago.
He momentarily thought about hanging up the shovel for the final time, but something kept him right where he was.
"I think I can get as much out of it as the kids do," Gunn says. "It fills the winter in and it just gives me a lot of joy to see a child who comes out here, virtually can’t walk on ice. Within no time at all, because we make skating trainers, within no time at all, they are skating!"
Gunn, who retired from INCO in 2005, says there are anywhere from 30 to 50 kids at the Rosemarie Playground every night.
Thanks to various community partnerships, they even offer free equipment that the neighbourhood youth are able to take home.
"We have repeats. We have kids that started here 25 years ago. They’re back, they’re in the neighbourhood, they’re married, they have children. They’re bringing their children back to Rosemarie Playground to participate and play," said Dunn.
There are 54 outdoor rinks that the city maintains and Dent says that they’ve been relying on a collaborative relationship between city staff and volunteers for approximately 50 years. While they would love to find committed volunteers for the season, she says the time commitment is flexible.
"We need volunteers to be able to flood, scrape, and shovel, as well as sort of ongoing snow and ice maintenance. We are expecting a whole bunch of snow this weekend, so we could really use a lot of extra people to come and remove that snow, so that families, children can get out and enjoy those outdoor rinks," said Dent.
Gunn says volunteering is a great opportunity for any parents of the kids using the rinks.
"I know when my two daughters were here, I was here all the time cleaning ice and putting new ice in, and making friends with the other parents. So, it was a good way for me as a parent to get to know other parents in the community, so we know who we are dealing with. We know the type of people that live around us and when we need things done, we get it done," said Gunn.