Niagara Gazette — I’m sure it’s not easy being a single mom, but every week I watch one of the best come into the Hyde Park Ice Rink in Niagara Falls, followed by her troop of six - yes that’s six - children from ages 3 to 14.
They are all special needs children, adopted by this remarkable single mom, Tracy Vacarro. The oldest is E.J. (short for Ethan), 14, down to Griffin who’s 3; then there’s Jameson, 13, Isabella, 9, Bethany, 10, and Riley, 4. These remarkable, resilient children have all been skating with Gliding Stars for four seasons, learning to be “stars” on the ice in an adaptive skating program that is headquartered here in Western New York with chapter programs in five states and eight cities nationwide.
Bethany has already progressed to the advanced group and is performing with seasoned Gliding Stars’ Amy Gardner, 19. They are skating as “Zebras in Africa” in the upcoming shows next Friday and Saturday. Bethany always works very hard and has a beaming smile. Her mom, Tracy, told me it hasn’t been easy for the little girl. “Bethany tried to do many traditional activities and was always three steps behind or hidden in the back. At Gliding Stars, she gets a chance to shine and her wonderful volunteers always encourage her to do more. The ‘I can do, I can skate’ motto really works for Bethany”.
The two older boys paired together in a performance two years ago and Jameson is doing so well he became a volunteer for his little brother, Griffin, this year.
Little 4-year-old Riley is also doing a pairing with Milagro Martinez from North Tonawanda, and they have chosen to do a Sesame Street theme for their performance.
The theme for this year’s show is “Gliding Stars Goes on Vacation” and the paired and solo skaters chose their routines and costumes based on that theme. Riley immediately wanted to go to Sesame Street and be the fairy Abby Cabady. She is cuter than words can express, this little smiling pixie on ice!
As a coach, it’s a tremendous joy to see children grow and blossom in the Gliding Stars program. I have been able to watch the Vacarro’s growing up, acquiring skills and confidence, improving their coordination and having fun! They are a very happy bunch, generally, and so is their mom. All the kids pitch in to carry the extra gloves, jackets or helmets in and out of the rink and they are genuinely nice and polite, happy children. That’s really remarkable when you consider how incredibly difficult their backgrounds were before being adopted by this amazing mom.
Together with dozens more skaters and volunteers from Niagara County and throughout the region, they will be skating their hearts out at the Northtown Center, 1605 Amherst Manor Drive, in Amherst at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Come and cheer them on and be inspired and amazed by this fun show!
Elizabeth O’Donnell is founder and president of Gliding Stars, an adaptive ice skating program for those with disabilities.
IF YOU GO WHAT: Gliding Stars performance WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday WHERE: Northtown Center, 1605 Amherst Manor Dr., Amherst MORE INFORMATION: Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Children 4 and under are free. Call 608-8345 or visit glidingstars.org for tickets and information.