Philadelphia roller skaters put fresh spin on community activity

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- India Bernardino has been surrounded by roller skating her whole life thanks to her father's generation before her. But it wasn't until her great-grandmother passed away that she found solace in the hobby herself.

"Skating really helped me and I've seen skating bring other people out that were really, really down," she said.

It is a tradition in Bernardino's community to celebrate the life of a lost loved one, perhaps by visiting the skating rink. Thus, she founded "Great on Skates" to involve more people in the generations-old art of roller skating.

Bernardino fused hip-hop dancing with skating to create a unique performing arts team. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they invited all walks of life to join in a skating workout class each week.

"There was a hard time when the pandemic first happened that even when we used to go to, like, the tennis courts and skate, or the basketball courts, they were all shut down," Bernardino said. "We felt like we were, like, closed out."

Instead, she corralled her best skating partners to enjoy outdoor spaces such as Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Simultaneously, Jaquanay Macklin was looking for an outdoor space to pick up roller skating.

"We started skating in our apartment," she said. Macklin and her friend skated to Paine's Park on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where they noticed one or two skaters hitting the street.

"We should start a group for new beginner skaters out in Philly," she said. Now, "Skateadelphia" is working on inviting more newcomers to make Philadelphia their own outdoor roller rink.

"We have a little following and we love that," Macklin said. She thinks the increasing interest in skating after the new year will help save local roller rinks at risk of closure due to the pandemic.

To learn more about Great on Skates or Skateadelphia, visit their Instagram pages.

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