The Community Rink of Cabbagetown

Courtesy Trish Finkelstein

Were you met with resistance while trying to fund the rink?

What type of people are usually using the rink?

What is an unknown key in the process to get the rink approved?

A Remarkable Person Podcast, Featuring Trish Finkelstein. The Story of The Wink at Winchester

Trish Finkelstein, a mother, lawyer, and resident of Cabbagetown co-founded a rink in her community to help create memories for families in an intimate setting.

Gurjot Gill| Toronto

Courtesy of Toronto Life and Trish Finkelstein

In 2020, Finkelstein got approved for a permit to build a rink at Winchester Park in South Toronto. Toronto was offering permits to communities that wanted to do outdoor rinks.

However, the reason she sought out the rink is because of the rinks getting filled up.

“The city rinks are open, but because they’re the only thing that’s open, they are so busy.” Says Finkelstein.

With her children having no place to skate as a family, Finkelstein took advantage of the opportunity to create the outdoor rink.

The Winchester Rink can safely hold 6 people, not only complying with public health orders but also allowing relief for residents.

Finkelstein's next step in the process was to get funding for her rink. She initially went to an organization to try and secure funding but they did not have the same vision as her. Instead, she went to her local butcher shop and she secured her funding because she believed it was the right thing to do.

“There are so many people now that are afraid to do anything afraid of offending, afraid of putting in the hard work. And like, I'm just not deterred by that.” Says Finkelstein.

The rink was physically created by Finkelstein along with a group of volunteers helping out with the process but the true commitment came next. Not only did Finkelstein create the rink but she also maintains it as well.

During the morning times, she takes care of the rink by doing multiple things. If it snows, she clears the snow off. She floods the rink when it's needed and she crafted a Zamboni to help make the rink silky smooth to skate on. It is a 7 day a week commitment to be able to maintain the rink.

Because of Toronto’s winter, the rink is open from late January to early March. And people can book their slots online at 30-minute intervals.

Another idea she had was a skate drive. Last year, she was able to gather over 40 skates in donations from residents. This year she was able to get them sharpened and ready to give away to children and adults who may not be able to purchase or get skates.

She believed it was important for people to skate since skating outdoors has become a staple in Canada during the winter months. During the past few years, it's become more prominent especially with the COVID-19 restrictions.

With COVID-19 and its restrictions forcing businesses and events to be closed, it leaves not much to do for the Ontario residents.

Courtesy of Toronto Life and Trish Finkelstein

In its second year, Finkelstein understands that having access to a rink is much more than just an activity. She notes that it’s something families and friends can do together safely.

During the midst of a modified stage two in Ontario’s reopening plan. Indoor dining was closed, along with indoor concert venues, gyms, theatres, museums, galleries and much more. This left Ontario residents stuck at home with these restrictions.

Restrictions can lead to an increase in loneliness and depression among individuals and households.

Sam Grewal, a mental health advocate and skater notes that skating is just one of the many ways that could help combat the negative mental health effects of restrictions.

“They can help maintain a healthy level of social interactions with others, effectively reducing/eliminating feelings of loneliness,” says Grewal, “being stuck at home contributes to loneliness, which can ultimately lead to more serious mental illnesses. Without social interactions and relatable conversations, that feeling of loneliness is amplified.

It’s been a successful journey for Finkelstein as the rink is constantly booked and busy. With great turnouts for the rink and skate drive, the hope is that this rink will be a yearly staple for the community for a long time.

"It's always fun learning about something you have nothing, no idea about," says Finkelstein. She notes that she wants this rink to be here for a long time and hopes to pass on the responsibility of the rink in the distant future to a collective group willing to maintain the rink.

The goal is that the rink will be a yearly tradition that can help create and reinforce lifelong memories for families and friends.



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