WEST OF WINNEBAGO REGIONAL NEWS: Green Lake County, Marquette County, Waupaca County, Waushara County

Dr. Eric’s Skate Club giving kids a break from virtual learning

From the Local 5 Digital Desk

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – One Oshkosh doctor is putting in overtime, but it’s not in the office. It’s on the ice.

Dr. Eric Smiltneek, a family doctor at Advocate Aurora Oshkosh, started Dr. Eric’s Skate Club in 2014. The club, serving students in kindergarten through 8th grade, is a collaborative effort between himself and another local family.

“The skate club started with an idea between me and the Eliassen family. We were looking for some activities to get kids out of the house in the winter. I’m a big fan of ice skating, they were a fan of skiing, so we kind of came up with this collaboration to invite some local school children to come and skate and ski,” says Smiltneek.

The after-school club, offers ice skating, skiing, and ice hockey. So far, the response to the after-school club has been overwhelmingly positive. The club has gone from working with two local elementary schools to more elementary schools throughout the Oshkosh Area School district. The club is even developing new partnerships with The Boys and Girls Club in Oshkosh, Boy and Girl Scout troops as well as the YMCA.

“The kids really enjoy getting out and getting away from their school environment. What we wanted to kind of show kids is that there are things you can do where you go far away, but we have a lot of local resources in Northeast Wisconsin that are parks and places right down the street that you can come out and enjoy,” says Smiltneek.

There is evidence that children are not getting enough exercise, and as many students are learning virtually due to the pandemic, it is becoming even more of a problem. The skate club gives children the opportunity to get out of the house and socialize, while exercising.

“Its really nice, because I don’t get to see that many kids. It’s really fun, we come out here a few times a week,” says Layla Smiltneek, a 6th grader at the Oshkosh Area School District.

“It’s fun to go around on the ice, play hockey and just socialize. My social life has been just Facetiming for the past year,” says Charlie Ford, a 6th grader at Oshkosh Area School District. Ford, a longtime member of Dr. Eric’s Skate Club, has been coming since he was in kindergarten.

It’s been gratifying for Smiltneek to see children who have never skated before master a new skill.

“It’s been really rewarding for me to be able to give the kids this and to kind of give back with this experience,” says Eric Smiltneek.

The skate club meets weekly from the end of the school day until 4:30 p.m. For more information on Dr. Eric’s Skate Club, click here.

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