Skate team, moving firm team up to help Hopi tribe - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Skate team, moving firm team up to help Hopi tribe

December 22nd, 2021 development
Skate team, moving firm team up to help Hopi tribe

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Figure skating is not an inexpensive sport. Most young people who participate come from families that can afford it.

“They have a lot of stuff, they’re very fortunate,” said Jaime Kalnicky, the coach of the Ice Denettes Synchronized Skating Team based in Chandler. “Sometimes it’s easy to overlook that when you haven’t seen true need.”

Kalnicky decided to lead a toy drive to help members of the Hopi tribe.

“I had already like made contact with the elders, … and really kind of felt passionate about it, because … they are non-gaming tribe, so they don’t have income like most of the tribes do from gaming.”

The Hopi tribe was the last in Arizona to sign on to gambling, doing so in late 2017. Its members had twice rejected allowing gambling before that. They finally agreed after a coal mine on their lands was shut down. Hopi land is far from main population centers and tourist attractions, being near Tuba City.

Kalnicky chose a group of six villages, many of which do not have running water or electricity. Kalnicky said the unemployment rate is 60 percent or higher. She asked her 60-member team if they were willing to help, and the answer was a resounding yes.

“We just thought it would be a good idea to do something for other people, because we have a lot of stuff that we don’t really use anymore,” Katelyn Brotherton of Scottsdale said.

The members of the team are from all parts of the East Valley and as far away as Casa Grande to train at Chandler’s Ice Den.

“As figure skaters, we come from families who can afford a sport like this, so it feels good to give,” said Emily Christian of Tempe.

Kalnicky said she had never tried to organize something like this before, and realized she would need some help getting all the toys to the reservation. She contacted Chad Olsen of Camelback Moving and was surprised by how much help he was willing to offer.

“When Jaime reached out to us last week about the toy drive, it was perfect timing,” Olsen said. “The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is pretty slow in the moving industry. It allows us to devote resources to a good cause. It’s our favorite time of the year.”

Olsen offered trucks to take the toys and other goods to the reservation. He also put the word out on his mailing list to ask for donations, and he provided storage space for all the toys that came in.

After five days, the skaters and the moving company had collected more than 7,000 pounds of goods. Kalnicky said she suspects they will be over 12,000 pounds by the time they drive them up to the reservation.

The donations include cash, toys, clothing and other goods.

Kalnicky said she recently spoke with one of the elders to coordinate delivery, and they teared up, saying “It’s been a really, really sad winter.”

In addition to dealing with COVID and losing many jobs with the coal plant closing, many tribe members used to rely on that coal to heat their homes. Now, they have to purchase it for $40 for a four-day supply.

And many can’t afford that, so they have turned to wood for heat. However, the nearest forest is 75 miles away.

“It’s heartbreaking, which I didn’t really know,” Kalnicky said. “This kind of happened, and I’m really glad it did. It’s probably the thing I felt best about in a long time.”


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