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MTU skate rental holds dedication Saturday

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Isabella Pladars, a second-year exercise science student at Michigan Technological University, greets friends while getting skates after the dedication of a new skate rental at the MacInnes Ice Arena Saturday. The shop was dedicated to Charlotte Jenkins, an electrical engineering student who died in January, and longtime skate instructor Cheryl DePuydt.

HOUGHTON — Charlotte Jenkins and Cheryl DePuydt never knew each other. But they probably would have bonded over a core belief: Everyone should have the chance to skate.

Friends and family members of both were on hand to dedicate the new skate rental at the MacInnes Ice Arena in their honor Saturday.

The project was launched by friends of Jenkins, an undergraduate student and resident assistant in East McNair who died in January.

Kendra Lachcik, an undergraduate at Tech and a skate guard and figure skating coach at the Student Development Complex, first met Jenkins at a public skate after one of her friends sprained his wrist in a fall.

Jenkins would always lend an ear to a friend, Lachcik said. She also lent out skates, keeping extra pairs in many sizes in her room and car.

“One could say that Charlotte had a skate borrowing program of her own,” Lachcik said. “Thus, this skate rental program is probably one of the best things we could do to honor her. The whole idea was conceived in a Discord server nine months ago, and the fact that it has transformed into this is just incredible to me.”

Anna Browne, a friend of Jenkins’ who graduated from Tech in May, recalled her smile and her passion for sharing her interests, from picking locks to broomball.

The 300 skates and helmets for rent open up the ice to anyone, Browne said — from a first-grader who is growing too fast for their old skates to fit, to a first-year Tech student who’s never skated.

Though an avid skier, Browne had never liked the idea of skiing. Jenkins had tried to get her on the ice, but between Brown’s fear of skating and busy schedule, it never happened.

“Although this does break my heart that I never got to skate directly with her, I feel like with the launch of this program, I am skating with her again,” she said.

DePuydt is a member of Tech’s Athletics Hall of Fame, having been the first women’s basketball coach. She founded the Michigan Tech Figure Skating School in 1973, and later helped establish the Copper Country Figure Skating Academy, among other programs.

Joel Isaacson, the senior associate athletic director at Tech, remembered DePuydt’s smile, and her passion for skating. She and her husband, John, had run a skate loan program out of their house, even sharpening skates.

Not having rentals at the SDC created a barrier for people to develop a passion for hockey or skating, Isaacson said.

“This is for the community,” he said. “And it couldn’t be represented by two more beautiful people than Charlotte and Cheryl. Their passion is uniting our community through this rental center.”

Two of the first to rent skates were second-year exercise science majors Lily Baker and Isabella Pladars.

“I’ve never been able to rent up here, so I really appreciate them establishing that, because I’ve grown up here and I never had a chance to skate,” Baker said.

Like Baker, Pladars hadn’t known Jenkins personally. But as a fellow resident assistant, she’d heard how amazing Jenkins was from other people in the residential housing community.

“I just really wanted to honor her going through this,” she said. “Also, my friends and I really enjoy going out and trying new things, and a lot of us haven’t skated before. So we’re really appreciative of this opportunity to try something new.”

Making the skate center happen took many groups: The Department of Athletics and Physical Education, the Department of Residence Education and Housing Services, the Charlotte S. Jenkins Memorial Fund and everyone who donated, the Cheryl DePuydt Memorial Fund, the Michigan Tech Parents Fund, the Undergraduate Student Government, the Inter-Residence Housing Council, the Wadsworth Hall Student Association, the McNair Hall Association, the Douglas Houghton Hall Council, Hillside Place Association, the Student Initiatives Support Program, Graduate Student government, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council.

Donors were able to cover much of the $63,000 cost, which included renovation of the former concession area and the purchase of equipment.

Skate rentals will be $5 for students and community members for an open skate or student skate session. Helmets will be offered free of charge to anyone using the rink. Skate sharpening will also be offered for $5 for the first year.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Tech at mtu.edu/givenow, where donors can specify the Charlotte Jenkins Fund.

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