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Curling club on verge of closing gets second lease on life with renewed interest

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After its survival was in jeopardy just a few months ago, the Cookstown Curling Club is thriving as it starts a new season.

In September, the club hosted its AGM, where leadership spread the news that it was in a dire state, saying there may not be enough members to start a new season this Fall. They were told that at least 25-30 new people would be needed for the lights to remain on.

That warning resonated with many of the club's long-time members, who rallied together to help breathe new life into the decades-old institution.

"We love this place. We love this club. We love coming here and joining in sport together but also enjoying the social aspect of the curling club afterwards," said Emily de Winter, the vice-president and secretary of the club. "When you've been a part of something for so long, it's hard to let it go, and we just couldn't let that happen."

So de Winter, along with many other members, hit the pavement, visiting local stores and events to spread the word about the club to try to entice new members to join. Their efforts were so successful they exceeded the expectations, with more than 40 new members signed up in a little more than a month.

"It's an institution in Cookstown," said de Winter. "I personally was born and raised in the area; I started curling at 10 years old. I'm not alone in that."

Francis O'Leary is one of the club's newest members. The Alliston resident says he was looking for a new way to keep busy during the winter months when he learned about the Cookstown Curling Club.

"It's been good. Everyone here has been very friendly, very accommodating," said O'Leary. "They know our whole team is all new people, and they are helping us along and teaching us what to do and teaching us how to curl."

The club offers a variety of leagues, including gender-specific as well as a mixed competitive league. There are also more recreational options and a league for seniors. The club has formed a new partnership with Cookstown Central Public School as it works to introduce the sport to a new generation.

There are plans to start a juniors-only league in January.

With so many new members, many volunteers have given their time to help facilitate training opportunities.

"Our whole mantra this year is it's a learning year; we want people to come out, we want them to try the sport," said de Winter. "Many of them have never even stepped on ice before, so taking the time, even within a game, to teach them the skillset so they can be successful so our club can continue to grow."

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