ROCKLAND â€” Kailey Murphy loves ice skating, just like her grandmother.
And when the 16-year-old glided across the ice, dancing to the 1970s classic jam, â€œSummer Nights,â€ some found it hard not to think of her grandmother, Katy Hayden, who had been recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
Hayden is the founder of the Winterettes, the Rockland synchronized ice skating team, which held its first practices of the season Monday at Rockland Ice Rink. Murphy, her granddaughter, is one of the teamâ€™s oldest members.
To honor Hayden, the Winterettes added a new component to practice: giving back to those in need.
Hayden was a foster parent so instead of additional time to work on a new routine or skill, the Winterettes spent part of Mondayâ€™s practice creating decorative bags for foster children, who are usually forced to carry their belongings in plastic trash bags when they move from home to home.
The older skaters, ages 10 and above, will stuff the bags with school supplies, toiletries, and other emergency items after a shopping trip.
A representative from the state Department of Children and Families will pick up the bags Thursday.
â€˜You canâ€™t always win, but thereâ€™s other things you can do [that will] always make you a winning team.â€™
The group plans to continue making the bags for DCF throughout the skating season, which officially begins in September.
â€œSkating is a privilege, and sometimes you can lose sight of how lucky you really are,â€ said Mary Sullivan, the Winterettesâ€™ skating director, who succeeded Hayden.
â€œYou canâ€™t always win, but thereâ€™s other things you can do [that will] always make you a winning team,â€ she said. â€œPlus, [Hayden] is a foster mom so we thought it was great. â€
Because of her familyâ€™s experience, Murphy said she recognized the importance of helping others. â€œI like that weâ€™re giving back and helping,â€ Murphy said. â€œI think it was a great idea.â€
The community service event was a collaboration between the Winterettes, their parents, and Together We Rise, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children in foster care.
According to its website, the nonprofit provides thousands of foster youth across the country with new bicycles, college supplies, and suitcases â€œso that children do not have to travel from home to home with their belongings in a trash bag.â€
At Mondayâ€™s practice, Winterettes of all ages used pastel crayons to color a blue duffel bag.
The younger skaters, ages 10 and below, colored stencil cutouts of penguins, rainbows, and Hello Kitty.
â€œI want the kids to be happy. And know that theyâ€™ll be safe and OK,â€ 9-year-old Rosaleigh Carter said.
Elle Blahut, 9, said the thought of kids putting their belongings in a trash bag made her sad.
â€œI hope they like the bags,â€ she said. â€œAt my school they talk about friendship. I just want them to be happy.â€
The older students also hoped their small gesture would make an impact.
â€œYouâ€™re one in a minion,â€ read Olivia Parhamâ€™s decorative bag, adorned with an image of the popular minions from the film, â€œDespicable Me.â€
But the connection to Hayden was not lost on the skatersâ€™ parents.
â€œKaty was like the matriarch here. And she has built something here that we want to continue. Sheâ€™s given so much to our kids,â€ said Julianne Flynn, who has one daughter on the Winterettes.
â€œI want my kids to understand that being supportive and having a sense of community is an important thing to always have in mind.â€
Gina Golden, who has two daughters on the team, was not surprised the girls and their parents rallied around Hayden.
â€œThere is a sense of community here,â€ she said. â€œThereâ€™s a commitment to each other and Iâ€™m excited to be a part of that.â€
Kailey Murphy, Haydenâ€™s granddaughter, was the last of the girls to finish decorating her bag.
Overall, she said she was happy with how her bag turned out and was looking forward to making more in the future.
Plus, her work for foster children is only beginning.
â€œI donâ€™t know why, but Iâ€™ve always wanted to be a foster parent. Itâ€™s a special feeling. But I just think that every kid needs a home,â€ she said.
Just like her grandmother.Astead W. Herndon can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH