By Jesi YostFor Digital First Media
The residents and staff of Spruce Manor in Reading received a visit from some Reading Derby Girls (RDG) on Thursday, February 18. Spruce Manor provides services for short and long term patients. They have the capacity for 184 patients whose ages range from 33 to 103 years old.
Sue Founds, AP-BC, Life Enrichment Director says “Spruce Manor is a facility made special by the residents and staff.” Founds became aware of Reading’s Roller Derby team when her son, a mascot for Brandywine Roller Derby (BRD), celebrated his 21st birthday at a BRD bout against RDG. Sue said “I knew that the love roller derby invokes would be a great thing to bring to the wonderful deserving residents at Spruce Manor. Since we can’t get to the team, we thought we might be able to bring the team to the residents.”
After clearing a large dining room, Spruce Manor’s staff and residents gathered to watch RDG league members demonstrate skating skills and explain the rules of derby.
Jenn Rightmyer, AKA Jenn-A-Fear, just began her third roller derby season with RDG. When asked what drew her to derby, Jenn-A-Fear said “I have a friend that use to play derby and she kept trying to get me to play since I’m athletic, strong and never give up. She tried for a year to convince me before I finally gave it a try. I fell in love and have been playing since.” She went on to add that her favorite part of derby is “The feeling of being a part of a team and making a difference. We are able to show children how strong we are and what we are capable of doing no matter our age, gender or professions. We never give up no matter how many times we get knocked down.”
Heather Barr, aka Betty Smak-her, thinks it is important to visit places in the community because, “not many people know that there is a local roller derby team in the Reading area. Many of the residents at nursing homes like Spruce Manor remember watching Roller Derby on TV back in the 60/70’s. A visit from skaters is a great way for them to talk about their past memories, and laugh, and maybe make new memories by attending a bout.”
Todd Kramer, Spruce Manor Assistant Life Enrichment Director, agreed with Betty Smak-her.
Kramer said that the residents showed a lot of interest in a visit from derby girls. He said “I became interested (in roller derby) when my uncle used to watch ‘Roll-A-Rama’ on the TV at our house. Derby was exciting to watch, and it made me a fan of the sport. We would watch the Penn Quakers, Jersey Jolters, Texas Tornadoes, and the T.C. Jets.”
Kramer added “I’ve been anxious to bring the amazing sport of roller derby to our residents in some way.”
Crystal Foster, aka TraumaKazi Red, enjoyed meeting Kramer and Spruce Manor residents. “I think it’s important to give back to the community. I know I can often forget how important those connections really are. To meet with people and to hear their stories and wisdom is very important.”
After seeing derby skills like knee drops, whips, weaving and skating stops demonstrated in the dining hall, several residents got into the spirit of roller derby and posed for photos TraumaKazi Red and Jenn-A-Fear.
The residents asked the derby girls a lot of questions, they were particularly interested in how some of the skaters got their derby names:
Crystal Foster — “My name was a collaboration between my husband and me. I wanted a name with some punch, and I also wanted to include something with ‘red’ since I’m a redhead. TraumaKazi Red was born.”
Jenn Rightmyer — “ I was trying to find a way to incorporate my real name, Jenn, into my derby name and growing up in the 90’s, “No Fear” was a popular slogan. So, Jennifer turned into Jenn-A-Fear”
Heather Barr — “I love to bake. So I made a Play on Betty Crocker - Betty Smak-her.”
The Reading Derby Girls are gearing up for their 2016 season. Their Home Opener will be played against the York City Derby Dames at Skateaway in Shillington on March 6.
More info about the Reading Derby Girls and their upcoming bout dates can be found at <www.ReadingDerbyGirls.com>.