Shakeel Gaidhar walked through the west door of the Royal Glenora Club a few minutes past 11:30 a.m. Saturday carrying his pair of skates in his left hand and a razor-sharp smile.
“I haven’t slept all night,” Shakeel said. “I can’t wait for this to begin.”
The word special, unfortunately, does not do justice to the matinee magic Saturday, thanks to Shakeel and Olympic medalist Jamie Sale. We’ll let you search for the right adjective.
The tale began in early November when Shakeel called with excitement gushing over the phone. The controller at Baytek Interiors, Inc., was the highest bidder of a skating party for 10 at the Glenora, a package in the ATCO Edmonton Sun Christmas Charity Auction, which raises funds for the Christmas Bureau, Adopt-A-Teen and Catholic Social Services.
“We want to pay it forward,” said Shakeel. “We want to give the experience to the Kids with Cancer Society.”
A great gesture, indeed. But it got even more amazing.
Shakeel called Proskate, out of the blue, to share the idea and see if there was any interest for involvement. Absolutely, said Darrell Saunders — and the paying forward concept received a huge nudge forward.
After Proskate closed its doors for business Monday, the staff prepared for a private reception for 11 children from the Kids with Cancer program and their families. The kids were fitted for skates, skate guards, helmets and other equipment.
It didn’t stop there. Darrell and his staff had the girls outfitted for skating dresses. And the kids weren’t just loaned the gear; they took it home to keep after Saturday’s event. Someone, and I don’t know who it was, picked up the tab for all the equipment.
The group gathered or lunch Saturday, hosted by Jamie, in the Royal Glenora cafeteria before the hour-long skating party. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters then headed down to the Glenora’s sheet of ice.
There were many lump-in-your-throat moments while the kids got ready in the two dressing rooms. Like Ava Hadfield. Ava is eight years old and uses a wheelchair because she was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was three years old.
Minutes before Ava went on the ice, dressed in a pink skating dress and matching helmet, she opened her purse – pink, of course – and carefully picked the lipstick for her performance. Jamie knelt down beside her and gave her the personal and experienced touch.
Then, for the next 60 minutes, 11 children, ranging in age from four to 11, skated with Jamie. Several Proskate staff, including Darrell, were on the ice lending a hand helping kids skate and even carried them through the air … just like to pros and Olympians.
Photographer Kristy Caputo was there, too, snapping action shots, as well as tender moments.
After the skate, Jamie shared the medal she won at the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City with the kids.
Shakeel spent the majority of the skate standing in the player’s box on the south side of the ice in a pair of jeans, wearing his skates. He had a look of pride and accomplishment on his face.
Chances are Shakeel will sleep well Saturday night with dreams of that event; dreams he made possible for others through his community compassion.
( To see more pictures visit camtait.com)