Special needs skaters have an ice day at Franklin Park Ice Arena
Carly Ziesemer performs her figure skating routine during the Special Needs Ice Sport Competition at the Franklin Park Ice Arena Saturday. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:35AM
FRANKLIN PARK — After Barbara Kozdron won what she called “the Academy Award” on Saturday, she thanked her family -- and Charlie Chaplin.
It all happened at the 21st annual Special Needs Skating Competition at the Franklin Park Ice Arena.
Kozdron, 32, of Chicago, won a trophy in figure skating -- an achievement her sister credited in part to studying old silent movies.
“She has been watching everything from Charlie Chaplin to ‘The Perils of Pauline,’” said Kozdron’s sister, Rebecca Kozdron-Dumcum. “She has been learning how to express herself without having to say anything.”
After she won, though, Barbara Kozdron didn’t have to remain silent while expressing herself.
“I have been skating here the longest,” she said. “I have been skating for 11 years. I love it!”
The event brought 99 competitors from Illinois and Wisconsin to the arena. It started with figure skating at 8 a.m. and wrapped up with hockey about 5 p.m.
In between, there also was sled hockey and speed skating.
Competitors at this event also could qualify to participate in the Illinois Special Olympics.
“It’s our favorite event,” said Ice Arena manager Sara Bolan. “We just love this event. We look forward to it every year, and it’s so rewarding to see these individuals come. We have participants coming here every year.”
Each year, the Franklin Park Fire Department plays against the Hornets sled hockey team. This year the Hornets beat the Fire Department 7 to 5.
“For the sled hockey, players sit in a specially designed sled that looks like it has a hockey skate blade at the bottom of it,” Bolan said. “Most of the sleds have one blade, and less experienced athletes have two blades.”
The other sled hockey competition was the Tomahawks Hockey Team versus the Wisconsin Timber Wolves. But they didn’t really play against each other; they combined their teams and played for fun.
According to Bolan, the figure skaters did a compulsory number. Their routine depended on their level, which resulted in different maneuvers. All ice skaters participate in a solo number in which they wear costumes and skate to music.
“I have been skating for two years,” said figure skater Alexandra Karda of Crystal Lake. “I practice every Saturday and I love the grace of the sport!”
Carly Ziesemer, 26, of Kildeer, has skated for six years. This was her fifth year at the event. She is a part of the International Skating Institute, and loves to skate in this competition -- party because of the sparkly outfits.
“I love winning the gold,” she said.
This year’s biggest sponsors were the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation, along with M&M Sports, Franklin Park Fire Department, and the goody bag donations came from the Chicago Wolves, Chicago Blackhawks, M&M Sports, IZZE Sparkling Juice, and Rush Impressions.
Bolan said word-of-mouth has helped the competition grow over the years. It’s also a free event for special-needs athletes. She hopes more people participate next year and wants the event to grow even bigger.
“I think it’s an event they really enjoy participating in,” she said. “You see how they change over the years and continue friendships.”~.