By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg/Ventura County Star

Iceoplex skate arena helps bring smiles to many

January 1, 2015
/Ventura County Star

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - More than 300 guests received free skating time, food, clothing, toys and bicycles on Wednesday night at the second annual “Start the New Year With a Smile” event hosted by the Iceoplex in Simi Valley.

Families were invited through their involvement with the Simi Valley Samaritan Center as clients and also through First 5, The Arc of Ventura County and the YMCA after-school program.

“The Samaritan Center is proud to be a part of the giving a night ... to a part of our community that could not experience such generosity except in such a charitable example as this event,” said Betty Eskey, of Simi Valley, executive director of the center that helps homeless people.

Local sponsors that made Wednesday night possible included Ascent Hearing Center, Goal Line Fitness Center, Guido’s Pizza & Pasta, KBI designs, Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, Waste Management and Smokin’ Steve’s Pit Barbecue Catering.

“We all wanted to help the less fortunate to welcome in a new year, and this is Iceoplex’s way of paying it forward,” said Scott Slinger, of Somis, owner of the ice-skating arena.

Event founder Cathy Kahle, of Simi Valley, said every family deserves a fresh start.

“By helping them start it off with a smile, I hope they will carry this memory to fulfill their New Year dreams,” Kahle said.

Upon arrival, guests were given photo opportunities with Iceoplex skaters in performance costumes along with celebrity skaters from the Stanley Cup L.A. Kings Ice Crew. Families then were directed to the upstairs dining room, where they received pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches, salad, pizza, side dishes, fruits, desserts and beverages.

They skated after dinner on an Olympic-size rink transformed into a winter wonderland with 17 fresh-cut evergreens lit with twinkle lights surrounded by piles of snow.

Jennifer Jacobo, who received an invitation through the YMCA, laced up ice skates for her friend, Jeremy Moreno, as her daughter, Miranda, stood nearby eagerly waiting to skate on the ice.

“This is a great thing because it’s hard times right now for everybody, and the kids are so excited,” said Jacobo, of Simi Valley. “It means a lot to us because we’d rather have family time here.”

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber, who was there, praised the Iceoplex for hosting the event and numerous volunteers and local businesses for their generosity.

“The Iceoplex ... cares about our citizens who have special circumstances, and it’s an uplifting experience for those that are guests,” Huber said. “It’s a neat thing to see the happiness on everyone’s faces.”

Families that attended last year were excited to have a traditional winter holiday activity they could share with each other and create special memories, said Arshia Rios, of Moorpark, event volunteer.

“This is a community that can rival any big city with everything it has to offer its residents,” Rios said, “yet it can come together like a charming small town to celebrate bringing in the New Year with a smile.”

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