Do you remember the great wintertime fun we had skating on creeks and ponds when we were kids? Cindy Monasmith Bregel (NB ’77) was blessed to grow up on Bairdstown Road where the banks to the ditch were deep thus creating a great wind block that allowed for long expanses of smooth outdoor ice. As a teenager, her parents added a pond in the backyard that allowed for more ice skating fun. Skating is one of her favorite childhood memories.
Fast forward to 1998. Cindy and her young daughter, Taryn, are in their Findlay home watching the winter Olympics and cheering on 16 year-old Tara Lipinski to a gold medal in figure skating. Cindy’s mind is recalling her own childhood delight in watching another American, Peggy Fleming, win a gold medal a long time ago when Taryn looks at her mom and says, “I want to do that.”
Cindy’s heart sinks because Taryn is diagnosed as developmentally delayed with impaired motor skills so there are no local opportunities for her to learn to skate. Unfortunately, local programs such as Silver Blades and Learn-to-Skate programs do not cater to Taryn’s needs.
Neither Cindy nor Taryn give up on the skating dream though. Finally, two years later, Cindy receives a call from Helen Stahl, a Special Olympics coach, asking if Taryn would be part of an exhibition ice skating program for individuals with disabilities that will be piloted in Findlay. Soon, Cindy is sitting in the UF Ice Arena bleachers watching Taryn on the ice, fitted with skates, helmet, a small walker, and assisted by a college volunteer. In disbelief, Cindy watches Taryn moving her feet correctly while being supported by the walker. As Taryn glides across the ice, Cindy knows that Taryn’s dream to ice skate is still alive!
Cindy and Dr. Jean Folkerth, from the University of Findlay, were so impressed with the pilot program that they committed to do whatever it took to get Elizabeth O’Donnell from Buffalo, NY, the leader of the national model of this program, to start a similar program in Findlay. Cindy soon found herself on the advisory committee focused on raising $25,000 to start the program. And what donor could say no to a passionate mother who wants to see her special needs daughter’s dreams come true?
Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the program quickly gained momentum. By 2002, the first Findlay ice show highlighted the talents of 27 stars, including Taryn who was accompanied by two volunteers, both the daughters of another NBHS alum, Mike Bucher. By 2005, the ice show had outgrown the UF Ice Arena and moved to the CUBE. Taryn was skating with only volunteer by that time who was her best friend since first grade, Brooke Larsen.
The following year, 2006, was tough for both the program and for the Bregel family. Cindy’s dad, John Monasmith, was terminally ill and Cindy was busy with hospital visits. Only a couple days before John passed away he said to Cindy, “You know that the best thing you have ever done is working with that skating program.”
Only three weeks after losing her father, the Gliding Stars advisory committee decided that due to the loss of skating instructors, the program would need to take a year’s hiatus. Still focused on Taryn’s dream, Cindy volunteered to find instructors to save the program, which she did. And as always, no good deed goes unpunished, so her reward was a role as co-coordinator of the ice show.
The following year, 2007, was especially poignant as Taryn was chosen to skate a solo in memory of her Grandpa John Monasmith. By this time, Taryn had begun to skate independently. Her dream inspired by Tara Lapinski was now a reality!
The Gliding Stars momentum has continued through annual shows with titles such as Pirate Island, High School Revue, Skating the 70s, Time Traveling, and Findlay’s Bicentennial. The club has grown significantly as the last show featured 57 Stars and 120 on ice volunteers, including 40 UF students. Taryn continues to skate as a star; she skates independently and also helps create costume ideas. Cindy has taken many active roles within the club including show coordinator.
For the most inspirational event of the year, mark your calendar for next year’s Gliding Stars spectacular called “Let’s Go to the Movies” on March 16th at 2:30 pm at the CUBE in Findlay.
In the near term, I would like to invite you to join us for a free Gliding Stars premiere of a short documentary on September 16 at 7 p.m. at Winebrenner, 950 N. Main Street, Findlay. To view a trailer of the documentary, called “Go Jackson Doll!” visit http://vimeo.com/71460834. Also follow Gliding Stars on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GlidingStarsofFindlay.
But most importantly, help me celebrate a NBHS grad who had the vision and tenacity to make the dreams of hundreds of local children come true: Cindy Bregel, and also to honor her daughter, Taryn Bregel, who dreamed such a big dream that it changed a whole community.