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Gliding Stars performances will be a family affair

From its theme to the featured skaters, this year’s production by Gliding Stars of Western New York is a family affair.

Two sets of twins, two members of an extended family and a 6-year-old girl who’s a soloist among five participating siblings will take to the ice for this weekend’s performances of “Family Game Night on Ice” at Northtown Center at Amherst.

“So many stories,” Gliding Stars founder Elizabeth O’Donnell said.

Founded in 2004, the adaptive ice skating program for people with disabilities has chapters in several states – including two in New York – and continues to grow.

Friday night and Saturday afternoon, more than 100 skaters and 200 volunteers will participate in the 11th annual ice skating show, which brings together people who have been skating at rinks in Hamburg or Niagara Falls since last October.

Those skaters will include 6-year-old Riley Vaccaro of Lockport, who’s been with the program since she was about 18 months old.

“She was born drug-exposed,” explained her mother Tracy. “She’s had to overcome some challenges due to her birth history.”

Recently, the first-grader at Lockport’s George M. Southard Elementary School also was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“She’s a wonderful, sweet little girl who’s like the Energizer bunny,” her mother said.

Difficulties related to ADHD posed a challenge as Riley prepared for her upcoming solo as “Barbie” this weekend.

“Where she is on the ice ... does she turn right or left,” said O’Donnell. “I could tell, working with her, it was hard for her.”

“I make her drawings of the routine so she could study those, walking around the house. For a kid with a challenge like that, it’s an astonishing amount of things to remember,” said O’Donnell.

“She has a hard time focusing,” agreed Riley’s mother, who helped Riley with the off-ice practice at home. “We go through it every night.” But Riley will shine when it comes time to perform, her mother said,

“No matter what she does, there’s someone cheering her on,” Vaccaro said. “That’s a wonderful thing with this program.”

Vaccaro has eight children, including two biological children in their 20s. The six others – including Riley – were adopted.

Three of Riley’s siblings – Bethany, 13; Isabella, 11; and Griffin, 5 – who also have special needs, are participating in the show. Another brother, Jameson, 15, is a volunteer.

Other featured performers will be Cheektowaga natives Casey and Coral Swan, 8-year-old identical twins who were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and tethered spinal cord syndrome, respectively.

There also are Orchard Park twins Fred and James Roehling-Taylor, college seniors with cerebral palsy, and Mitchell Martin of Wheatfield and his niece, Jen, of Lewiston, who have complex developmental disabilities.

Performances begin at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday at Northtown Center at Amherst, 1615 Amherst Manor Drive. For advance tickets ($8), call 608-8345. Otherwise, they’re $10 at the door; children 4 and younger admitted free.