The need for healthy activities that engage youth and adults has likely never been greater for residents of the Shenandoah Valley. With skyrocketing substance abuse rates, crisis level mental health incidents, and the introduction of emergent, pervasive, and addictive technology, the region’s young minds face uncharted waters. These facts coupled with a trillion-dollar federal deficit and crippling state and local budget constraints mean that if we want to provide our youth and young adults with something close to the experience we shared here in this amazing part of the country, we must organize, plan, and execute.

I was recently stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, with my wife and two sons. Although Alaskan summers and the midnight sun compete with my strongly-rooted affection for these Virginian hills, the Alaskan winter is long and dark. With sunrise at 9 a.m. and sunset at 4 p.m., the winter can take its toll on the young and old alike. It is with this in mind that I signed my boys up to play hockey. It was about half-way into that first season of watching from the other side of the glass when I realized that what was happening on the ice was not just about the amazing sport of hockey. It was about staying busy, keeping our minds and bodies occupied, and engaging with our neighbors to the point that some days I didn’t even miss the sun. The game of hockey, that ice rink, and everything that came along with it, became a coping strategy to get through a challenging season.

I want my boys, along with the rest of the valley’s youth, to have options on how to get through their own challenges now and in the future. I can’t speak for all the other initiatives, projects, activities, etc., that are competing for attention regarding how to keep our young people engaged.

What I can speak for is my own experience having an ice rink nearby. Free skate, cosmic skating, rink-side hot chocolate, pond hockey tournaments, adult leagues, figure skating, power skating clinics, glove tag and the list goes on. My hope is that one day when those boys are faced with their own challenging season, their own Alaskan winter, that they will have plenty of healthy options to chose from right here in reality.

I am writing to encourage all of us to support this effort. I was a swimmer in high school, John Handley High School ’01, and many of us know that if Tag and Shelly tell us we need a pool, we need a pool. The fact that we can build state-of-the-art aquatic facilities that will include an equally impressive ice rink seems like a no-brainer. This opportunity requires a massive community effort, and the Friends of 2 for 2 are ready to bring us together to accomplish this goal. Let’s meet them where they are and create something real, something healthy, and something memorable.

John W. “Franklin” Lee is a resident of Luray.

(3) comments


Hockey would be great but it is super expensive and not realistic. What about lacrosse?! It is similar in nature and a lot less expensive since there are plenty of field space available already. The SVYL has a huge budget having over 30k in the balance at the end of the last year and compounded with the advertising and marketing capabilities of winchester parks and recs the sport could grow tremendously. If only the commissioner of svyl and local youth development programs in the area could promote lacrosse then I believe it would not only grow but flourish and bring the ability of boys and girls in the local area to a positive sport and away from addictive activities. What do you think?


Build it, and we will come.



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