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Outdoor rink to help underprivileged kids

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Graham Holmes doesn`t mind the numb toes or frost forming on his face.

That just means Canadian winter has finally arrived and he can finally finish the outdoor rink where he soon plans to welcome the entire community.

Holmes is founder and president of a fledgling non-profit called Empower Play. He works with a board of directors to raise and provide money so underprivileged kids can pursue sports and the arts.

In its first year, Empower Play provided $1,000 to each of three Sarnia hockey players who wanted to play travel.

Holmes, 28, wants to expand the non-profit’s reach and has come up with a plan to raise as much as $15,000 this winter from an outdoor rink on the city’s waterfront on Harbour Road.

“With a lot of help from some really great sponsors, Stokes By the Bay, and volunteers, we’ve built this rink for community skates, a 3-on-3 hockey tournament and a Family Day skate (Feb. 15) with the Legionnaires,” he said. “We’ve got music, lights for night skating, benches and a change room.

The rink Holmes built with the volunteer help of Jordan Colquhoun of Hendrik Carpentry and Chris Pavli, owner of Stokes By the Bay, measures 81’ X 48’, or about one-third of a regular hockey rink.

The men made 3.5’ boards surrounding the rink using steel barriers from the defunct Bayfest music festival. They bolted on plywood, built rounded corners and erected mesh nets to stop loose pucks from escaping above the boards.

A mild December prevented the ice from going in before now, but Holmes said his group will still meet its January deadline to get the rink flooded and ready.

Volunteers were out for hours every day and night last week, adding layers to the surface, which they hope will ultimately be several inches thick.

“We want to take our time and make sure the ice is really nice without any air pockets,” said Colquhoun. “It’s all about the layers.”

Registration has started for the first Battle for the Bay 3-on-3 Championship to be held the weekends of Feb. 5-7 and Feb. 19-21, with the championship game on Feb. 27. At least seven of a possible 16 teams have already signed up, paying $450 each.

As soon as the skating surface is ready, Empower Play will also hold outdoor community skates at different times through the week and weekends.  See days and times online at

Family skates and open skates will be available to everyone for a donation.

“I wanted to do something positive for Sarnia,” said Holmes.  “I played basketball and football all my life and I coached.

“I’ve seen a lot of children who could have played at the travel level fall through the cracks because there was no money for it.

“And I know there are many children who would maximize their music and art skills if they could take lessons.

“The rink is a way to raise more money for our applicants and give the community something fun and active to do,” said the SCITS grad.

Last year, Empower Play received about 50 applications from organizations hoping to assist a child in financial need.

Jordan Colquhoun, left, and Graham Holmes, work on the outdoor skating rink going in at Stokes by the Bay on Harbour Road. Glenn Ogilvie
Jordan Colquhoun, left, and Graham Holmes, work on the outdoor skating rink going in at Stokes by the Bay on Harbour Road.
Glenn Ogilvie

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