Sydney and Rebecca Reynders have followed different but intertwined paths at The Skating Club of Boston. Sydney was instantly at ease on the ice, while older sister Rebecca, who has Down Syndrome, found delight in working on basic skills, often with Sydney adding coaching tips and sisterly encouragement.
“It’s always been great to watch the two of them grow together over the years; they admire and support each other so much,” says their mother, Mary. So when the Club decided to start a Theatre On Ice unified team three years ago, one dedicated to skaters with special needs, Mary was thrilled. “I signed up to be team manager,” she says. “The Club has been so supportive, and so I naturally wanted to give back.”
With that support, both daughters have flourished. Sydney, now a college student who has advanced to the senior Theatre On Ice team, in particular thanks coach, Suna Murray, “who has meant everything to me,” she says, “and has made me into the skater I am today and the person and student I am outside of the rink.”
“What I love, and also still can’t believe, is how I’m on the same team as the many skaters I’ve looked up to over the years while competing and skating at the Club,” she adds. “Having only trained in singles for over a decade, a highlight for me is being a part of a skating family for the first time, and skating alongside the most insanely talented group of artists and performers.”
Rebecca performs with the unified team, and participates in the annual Basic Skills Competition, and, also noteworthy, “feels comfy” hanging out in the locker room with Sydney and other figure skaters, said Mary.
Those affirmative experiences give Mary, as a parent, a particularly rich appreciation for the Club. She is grateful for both the superior coaching that inspired Sydney, as well as the abiding values that embrace Rebecca. She recalled that when she ventured to ask about putting Rebecca on the program for the Basic Skill Competition, she wasn’t sure how the organizers would respond.
“They welcomed her with open arms,” she says “That was a leap of faith. But they recognized that Rebecca wanted opportunities to practice and perform like everyone else. She had her own dreams.”
And the audience’s response? “That was a moment I’ll never forget,” says Mary. “The house erupted with applause. The warmth in the audience brought tears to the eyes of the coaches. Everyone realized how hard Rebecca worked. She showed everyone what the joy of skating is all about. It’s pure enjoyment.”
Now the family is looking forward to Norwood, which will give them a chance to experience another community and share their performances with a larger audience.
“I’m excited that our team can get more ice, so we’ll make that distance work,” says Mary. “Enthusiasm will carry everyone along to the Norwood rink.”