Last spring, 8-year-old Lola Renick noticed girls crying and complaining that their feet hurt after they finished skating at a local ice rink.
A competitive figure skater of two years, Lola questioned why the kids were in so much pain doing something she enjoyed. Her mother explained to her that because the children were using rental skates, the boots were generic and not formed to fit their unique feet, so they experienced foot pain and blisters.
That's when Lola decided to make lemonade out of lemons — literally and figuratively.
"I thought it would be nice for kids that have to use the rental skates to have the real good ones so they don't hurt their feet," the Carlsbad girl said.
The third grader at The Rhoades School in Encinitas started Lola's Lemon-Aid for Skates, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, last year. The organization went public in November, said her mother, Mindee Ibe-Renick.
Every Sunday, Lola and her mother make lemonade and sell it in their neighborhood, sharing their goal with customers. The pair put the sales profits toward new skates for children who have a high interest in figure skating but can't afford proper-fitting, entry-level skates.
"We want to try to find children that have goals in figure skating or they have a strong interest where they want to start taking lessons," Ibe-Renick said. "We've gotta try to find kids that have an interest or a drive to get on the ice but financially they just can't do it."
Ibe-Renick, who also figure skated when she was younger, stressed the importance of a proper-fitting skate for those who are interested in figure skating. She said she doesn't want a child who's serious about the sport to give up because they are in pain from generic-fitting boots.
Ibe-Renick notes on the organization's website that her skating career ended too soon due to an improper boot fitting and continued foot soreness.
"Today, figure skating boots are a lot better and with the proper fitting, your skating life will prosper," Lola wrote on her website.
Oftentimes, Ibe-Renick said, children are forced to wear rental skates because their parents can't afford entry-level skates, which can run for about $80 to $100. Children can also grow out of skates every six to 10 months, Ibe-Renick noted, so it can also be an expensive routine purchase.
So far, since really pushing the word out about the nonprofit in December and January, Lola has purchased a pair of skates for one child, an 8-year-old girl named Masha from Carlsbad.
Masha's mother, Julia Klyushina, said a friend referred her to Lola's Lemon-Aid for Skates. Masha expressed a strong interest in ice skating after attending several public lessons, Klyushina said.
"I felt happy because now I can start figure skating," Masha said.
Currently, Lola's goal is to provide one pair of skates each month during the organization's first year. Her longer-term goal is taking used figure skates and rotating them to new skaters so they are able to wear used skates that might otherwise sit in garages or be donated to thrift shops.
Ibe-Renick believes her daughter's desire to helps others stems in part from her bloodline. Lola's great-grandfather, and Ibe-Renick's grandfather, is John G. Ibe, a former Navy man who was on the board committee for the Bob Hope Memorial in Downtown San Diego. A bronze statue of John G. Ibe, who donated to a number of charities and died in 2006, is displayed near the USS Midway.
"Lola understands that's a legacy her great-grandfather left for his family," Ibe-Renick said. "I think that has a lot to do with what she wanted to do. She wanted to give back. She loves the sport of skating, and she saw a need. With her having a little bit of her great-grandfather's blood in her, she just came out and said she wanted to help."
For more information about Lola's Lemon-Aid for Skates, visit www.lolaslemon-aidforskates.org or email Ibe-Renick at Mindee@lolaslemon-aidforskates.org.