Ice Skating Club Launches in Oshkosh to Help Students Improve Fitness

Dr. Eric’s Skate Club Formed After Discussion at School Board

The clear, smooth natural ice of Millers Bay off Menominee Park in Oshkosh will soon be buzzing with youthful energy and the swish of ice skates on Thursdays after school until dusk.  Dr. Eric Smiltneek, a family physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh and a skating enthusiast, helped form a skate club for children in grades 3-8 from nearby Webster Stanley Elementary and Middle Schools.

The idea to form the skate club came from a discussion at the school board level about how to improve the fitness of the young people in the community.  “Although traditional competition oriented athletics appeal to many students, the opportunities to participate are often concentrated at the high schools and are somewhat exclusive.  We were looking at activities that had a lot of movement, taught lifetime skills, and moved kids outside away from TV or computer screens,” Dr. Smiltneek said.

No stranger to ice skating himself, Dr. Smiltneek has been ice skating since he was 4-years-old, played competitive youth hockey for 10 years, and has a lifelong affinity for nature ice over ice rinks. As he skated with Steve Eliasen, friend and Oshkosh school board member on Millers Bay in early December, they noted the nearby school and conceived of a skating activity for kids. “We discussed this idea with the school principals and they were enthusiastic,” Dr. Smiltneek said.

A kick-off event for the skating club was held at Webster Stanley.  It featured Dr. Christina Lehner, an Oshkosh veterinarian who was an alternate on the 2002 U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team. Dr. Lehner is also featured in a dramatic 2013 aerial YouTube video featuring nature skating off Menominee Park in Oshkosh.

On Thurs., Jan 16, after school, the Skate Club ice time begins on Miller's Bay.

Participants in Dr. Eric’s Skate Club, as it is named, will be asked to bring their own skates and helmets. A number of skates and helmets will be available to those who need them through Webster Stanley School.  The purchase of this equipment was made possible through the support of ThedaCare and Play It Again Sports.

“The club will continue to meet every Thursday afternoon and will really be what the kids make of it. Parents are also welcome to attend and participate in the club. We have no current plans of special events, although with the Olympics coming there will be interesting opportunities,” Dr. Smiltneek said.

According to Philip Marshall, principal at Webster Stanley Middle School in Oshkosh and K-12 Coordinator of school social work, the skate club offers two big benefits. “We have the second largest inland lake in the U.S. right here in our back yard, and this gets students outdoors, in nature, offering a winter activity that improves their physical well-being. We’re thrilled that ThedaCare will provide the resources for all students to participate, regardless of their ability to pay for equipment.”

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare isone of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.