Ice skating clubs up and down the country rely on devoted groups of volunteers. But for SPICE, their work simply wouldn’t be possible without them.
Special People on Ice (SPICE), are an amazing ice skating group who work with disabled skaters and skaters with special needs.
They’re based in Slough, Berkshire, and have been supporting disabled skating sessions since their beginning in 2002.
The group was originally founded with just five members, one coach and three volunteers, but today SPICE has over 60 members, various skating programmes and a devoted network of 33 volunteers.
The group’s mission is to provide a calm and supportive environment where both children and adults with disabilities can learn to skate. Without volunteers SPICE Skaters wouldn’t have the same opportunity to enjoy the sport they love.
Jo Hodgson, who helped found SPICE in 2002, saw a need for activities for people with disabilities in the area.
Jo said: “In 2002 a man called David Clutterbuck was looking for activities for his son, who has Down Syndrome.
“David liked skating, so took his son along with him. I knew David through other activities, so I decided to bring my own son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, to the skating session as well.
“We were joined by three other young people, including a young lady with Down Syndrome and a young man on the Autistic spectrum.
“At this time, there was absolutely nothing set up for young people with special needs. Parents were the ones trying to organise everything
“It was clear to us that disabled people needed something in place to help them enjoy new activities, like ice skating.”
David spoke to his ice skating coach, who agreed to teach the small group of disabled skaters. When the group grew a little bigger, siblings were invited onto the ice to help their brothers and sisters.
Jo adds: “We didn’t realise at first, but of course being a sibling of a child with special needs brings its own challenges as well.
“We decided siblings and family members should be able to be there to support but also skate in their own right - without feeling like all the attention was placed on their brothers and sisters.”
Soon after its quick growth SPICE began to actively seek volunteers among the skating community of Slough, to take pressure off siblings and parents.
Over the years SPICE has expanded to have 60 members, many different classes and ability groups and 33 volunteers – the lifeblood of the group.
SPICE volunteers are mostly made up by Slough's 4 Synchro Teams, but also siblings who have learned to skate and have come back to help. SPICE’s youngest volunteer is 13, while their oldest is 70.
Jo’s daughter Annie is one of those volunteers, and says helping SPICE members is just as fun as going skating with friends.
She said: “We form firm friendships with the people we assist, it’s just as enjoyable for us.
“We also spend time together off the ice. SPICE organise other activities to do as a group such as trampolining and bowling. We’ve even done a day trip to France.
“I skate with a girl named Vivi who is 13 with Cerebral Palsy, we’ve become great friends through SPICE and I recently went to her school party with her.
“It’s great for the social and life skills of SPICE members, but volunteers like myself really value the time we spend with the group too.”
SPICE run a Learn to Skate course which is made up by three groups. One is led by Coach Ryan Sowter, one by volunteer Hannah Guggan and the Synchronised Skating Team, Team SPICE, which is led by Annie.
With rising ice time costs SPICE now only have one qualified NISA coach helping in their Learn to Skate Session, making their volunteers even more important.
If you would like to help SPICE by giving a donation click here.
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