Jul. 26—Experienced skaters and new skaters alike are invited to a new rollerblading adventure with a purpose.
Operation Ohio is four days of "skating and community" from Cincinnati to Columbus on the Ohio to Erie Trail to raise mental health awareness. Happening Sept. 3-6, the event is organized by Skatin Dayton co-founder, Jen Effinger.
Last year, four area "professional inline skaters" completed the route and inspired Effinger to make this year's skate event more impactful.
The event is free to join, though Operation Ohio is raising money through optional donations. Organizers said they don't want anyone to feel discouraged to participate if money is any kind of barrier. Donations will help offset campsite expenses, a driver on standby for safety and other event costs.
All leftover funds will be donated to the event's partnering charity.
Operation Ohio is partnering with National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, a national advocacy group originally founded as a grassroots group by family members of people diagnosed with mental illness. One of the organization's largest chapters is located in Cincinnati.
NAMI leaders will attend the nightly campouts during the skate event to help direct and facilitate conversations surrounding mental health.
The first day of Operation Ohio will cover 40 miles, the second day is 23 miles, the third day is about 27 miles and the fourth day is 25.
"So yes, this needs to be something you are serious about," Effinger said.
However, participants are able to join the big skate at any point during the event. There will be staggering departure times for varied levels of experience, so there's an opportunity for skaters of most skill levels to get something out of the challenge.
"You don't have to do the whole trek with us," Effinger said. "If you want to do just one day, you're able to jump in wherever. And we have different starting points and we have different places for people to be able to just hop along."
Since 2008, Effinger has been an avid Cincinnati Rollergirl and began coaching the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls in 2014. She said there wasn't a lot of derby around, so it was cool to be a part of the initiation of the sport in the area.
For Effinger, community has been the biggest benefit of diving into the region's skating arena.
"Honestly, the skating community is amazing, and it's great because you can either...learn and grow within the community, or you can do it by yourself," she said. "Skating is one of the most unique sports because it's so multifaceted. There's speed skating, there's dance skating, there's derby (and) there's distance skating."
Effinger and local skater Brandi Goulet began organizing Skatin Dayton meetups in August 2020. The group organizes on the Skatin Dayton Facebook page and regularly meets on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. at different trails and parks around the Miami Valley.
Skatin Dayton will also host specific meetups for skaters who are interested in training for Operation Ohio.
So far, 15 skaters have signed up for the skate, which Effinger feels is "astronomical" for the event's first official year. As more people get involved, the goal is to get sponsors for the skate and hold a big raffle at the end.
To follow along with Operation Ohio updates and training meetups, request to follow the Skatin Dayton Facebook group, follow Operation Ohio's Facebook page or visit operationohio.com/.