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The first part of the activity took place on December 19, 2018 at Silivrikapi Ice Rink (Istanbul) with the contributions of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) Youth and Sports Directorate, the support of the Sports Istanbul ice skating trainers, the sponsorship of Polin Waterparks and the participation of the physically-challenged members of the Turkish Paraplegic Association (TOFD).
The story of this sustainable therapeutic recreation project that involves different stakeholders was described by Marmara University Sports Sciences Faculty Lecturer Tayfur Özkan as follows: "The idea for the project came from a presentation that some third-year students prepared for their Recreation course last year; these students are the ones organizing the event today. Twenty volunteer students organized and divided themselves into groups to undertake the tasks of finding equipment, communicating with the societies for the disabled, finding sponsorships, facilities, contacting stakeholder corporations and making use of the social media. After sponsorship discussions were held, an agreement was signed with the sponsor company, and 9 volunteer students conducted this year's project research and operations. The first part of the activity took place on December 19, 2018 at the IMM'S Silivrikapi Ice Rink. Fifteen volunteer students in the third year class of Marmara University Sports Sciences Faculty Sports Management Department (the MARTI group), employees of the IMM Youth and Sports Directorate Sports Services Department, 4 disabled individuals and 1 administrator from the Turkish Paraplegic Association, 4 ice skating trainers from Sports Istanbul Silivrikapi Ice Rink, the Marketing Director of Polin as well as 1 cameraman and 1 photographer from the IMM Web TV team attended the event.
Tayfur Özkan commented on the contributions the project would make and on how they planned for the project to be sustainable: "The project's priority is to provide relief to physically-challenged individuals confined to a wheelchair and provide them respite from their everyday routines and the opportunity to socialize. At the same time, with the training provided to relatives of the disabled, our aim is to enable them to take advantage of sports events and social occasions, either together with their physically-challenged loved one or on an individual basis. This way, the physically-challenged individual will capture a chance to glide on the ice with a specially equipped wheelchair without the need for help from another person. To ensure the project's sustainability, the MARTI group has created an Instagram account (@martihareketi) that is open to the physically-challenged as well as to volunteers that may want to join them by offering to guide them around the ice rink. Four specially equipped wheelchairs have been already delivered to the Silivrikapi Ice Rink to support the project in achieving sustainability. Our students who are in the Sports Management Department and apply their knowledge to the area of Therapeutic Recreation, which is a branch of the Recreation Division, are given the opportunity to gain experience and learn by being in such a sustainable collaborative project."
Tugay Yelce, a student at Marmara University Sports Management Department and a member of the MARTI group, commented: "The project came about with a presentation we made in our class on Recreation. We believed we could carry this out. We believed that the sky was the limit and we could touch people's lives." - Gizem Isik, another student in the same department and also a member of the Marti group, said, remembering the happiness she felt that day, "The day of the event, it was worth everything to see the joy on the faces of those physically-challenged individuals. We are lucky to have had the opportunity to share this happiness with them at that moment."
Ali Kendirici, an employee of the Turkish Paraplegic Association (TOFD) expressed his feelings about this experience by saying, "Dancing on ice was nothing less than a dream for us. I'm so happy to have lived out my dream." Another TOFD employee, Elif Çelik had this to say: "Gliding over the ice was a wonderful feeling. If I were to use just one word to describe it, I would say it was simply 'freedom'." - TOFD member Burhan Abut said, "There's no barrier that the physically-challenged cannot overcome. Let's remove all the barriers."
Söhret Pakis, Director of Marketing and Communications, Polin Waterparks said, "We thank all of the people who contributed their ideas, hearts and efforts to make this journey possible, transforming a student project's dream into reality and making so many people glow with happiness. We on our part as a brand are very happy to have made this tiny contribution to a sustainable social responsibility project that is full of goodness and returns so much back to the community. The credit for the real contribution and labor belongs to the students. Taking their inspiration from nature, they were able to bring together different stakeholders to bring to life a project that touches the hearts of universe. I feel grateful. "
In the second stage of the project, works will continue to enlist the participation of other associations for the disabled, to bring together volunteers and the physically-challenged and to make ice skating courses available to whomever in these groups is interested.