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Vernon Rink's Headwear Policy Draws Ire of South Windsor Cancer Patient

Janna Lombardo, who is battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, was not permitted to enter Ron-A-Roll Monday because she was wearing a hat.

October is certainly a month in which many people are thinking pink in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But one South Windsor woman who is battling breast cancer is seeing red after a Vernon roller skating rink - citing a longstanding business policy - ordered her to remove her hat to enter the premises on Monday afternoon.

Employees of Ron-A-Roll in Vernon said that South Windsor’s Janna Lombardo, who has been battling breast cancer since 2006, could not wear her hat into the premises despite her desire to only sit in the establishment’s snack bar.

“I have no hair and I’m on chemotherapy,” Lombardo said in a telephone interview. “They said they would supply me with a helmet, even though I told them I was not going on the rink. They still wouldn’t let me in, telling me I could have worn a helmet. …

“I even took a piece of hair out to show them that I was undergoing chemo.”

Lombardo said she only wanted to watch her two children (ages 9 and 7) skate, and that being denied access based on her headwear was particularly difficult because she has so few days in which both her kids have the day off and when she has the energy to do things with them.

“I stormed out of there went to my car and cried,” said Lombardo, adding that she was not particularly pleasant to the rink employees. “I was so upset. My kids wanted to go skating. … I only get so many days a week when I feel good, and this happened to be one of the days [my kids] had off. [Ron-A-Roll employees] were unbending. ...

“I have never had anyone treat me like this before.”

Ron-A-Roll, for its part, has a sign that is in plain view inside the foyer of the establishment that states, in relevant part, “No Hats! No Headwear! No exceptions!”

What’s more, the establishment’s website sets forth a dress code that prohibits “hats or headwear of any kind including sunglasses, combs worn in the hair, handkerchiefs, head wraps, sweat bands, Do-rags, wave caps, scarves, bandanas, etc.”

The site invites people with questions about the dress code to contact Ron-A-Roll at a phone number listed.

Representatives from Ron-A-Roll’s management politely declined to be interviewed for this story, but the business released a statement citing safety concerns - hats and bandannas can fall on the ground - as the reason behind the strict dress code enforcement.

"Our rules, which we firmly stand behind, are in place in an effort to prevent potential risk of injury to patrons of our facility. Roller skating is a strenuous and fast-moving sport, like in any other sport if the rules are not enforced people get hurt. Our policies are posted on our website, in our lobby, announced over the PA system and on most of our fliers in the hope that incidents like this can be avoided. The only headwear we allow are helmets because they are secured with a chin strap and designed for safety. We do not allow headwear because if it fell off it would be a tripping hazard. Safety is our first priority and therefore, our rules cannot be bent, nor exceptions be made. Helmets are offered to customers so that this safety requirement is met.  The roller skating industry is not the only type venue that has rules in place, many other amusement places and family entertainment centers have rules for the safety of their patrons."

A Ron-A-Roll employee who declined to be identified told Vernon Patch Local Editor Chris Dehnel that the policy has been in place and strictly and uniformly enforced for some time.

The business’ safety concerns, however, did not sit well with Lombardo, who said that she has seen popcorn and other items on the floor of the rink and snack bar.

“I’ve seen coats, shoes, pocketbooks and food on ground, but they’re worried that your hat might fall off?” said Lombardo, before drawing an analogy. “It’s discrimination. I can’t bring a dog into a restaurant, but a blind person can bring a service animal in. There are exceptions to everything.”

South Windsor resident Susan Morison, Lombardo's friend who was at the rink with her children during the incident, agrees.

"I work for a small business," Morison said. "The staff there makes exceptions all the time. ... It was flabbergasting that [Ron-A-Roll's] owner didn't make an exception here.

Morison said that Lombardo's appearance - balding from chemotherapy - rendered her in a less-than-dignified state.

"For someone who was going to just watch the skating, it was ridiculous for the owner not to budge," she said.

The claim that Ron-A-Roll discriminates against cancer patients may not sit well with its owners, however, as the rink has hosted several Relay for Life events in the past.

While rink representatives are insisting that the policy’s enforcement is about safety, it is not unusual for such businesses institute strict dress codes because of potential gang activity.

Lt. John Kelley of the Vernon Police Department said he remembers a period of about six years from the late 1990s into the early 2000s when there were numerous calls each weekend regarding problems at Ron-A-Roll. He said “young gang types” - particularly from Hartford and New Britain - were causing trouble.

"It used to be a problem. On a couple of occasions, there were near-riots," Kelley said.

Regardless, Lombardo said that there was one way for Ron-A-Roll to make amends.

“Make a donation to the American Cancer Society,” she said. “A large one.”

meowkats4 October 09, 2012 at 06:58 PM
We live in a world full-of-rules. So I say, if this has always been a company policy then they should not be broken!! People have to live by rules everyday, just so long as the rules don't discriminate.
Sluggo October 09, 2012 at 07:46 PM
GOOD FOR RON-A-ROLL!!! I applaud this business for sticking to it's guns. Whether you like it or not, these are the rules that they've set in place. If you don't like them, it's your right not to patronize the place. You wanna different set of rules? Open your own business! Cancer killed my father at 50 years old. It sucks. But he never asked for exceptions or pity. This lady should've gone in to the skating rink bald, if nothing more than to prove a point to these owners and be a strong example to her children by not excluding yourself because of an illness. Instead, she had a pity party out in the parking lot. And SHAME on this lady for crying DISCRIMINATION. She's actually comparing her need for a baseball hat to a blind person's Seeing Eye Dog???? SHAME ON YOU.
Susan October 09, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I think it's interesting,Slugger, that you claim that Janna lacks courage for not walking into the rink bald, but you lack the courage to have a more transparent screen name or go on camera defending your policies, for everyone to see.
Cathleen Higgins October 09, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I must say, I also agree with the skating rink. But show some compassion. Yes your father may have past away from cancer, (I'm sorry to hear.) But its different for each individual. Especially for a women to be bald. Most women care more about their looks than men. And its also possible that she's more worried about what her children's feelings are. Kids can be unknowingly cruel @ that age. PLUS anyone in treatment for cancer can be severely depressed. I will pray for her to have more strength.
Cathleen Higgins October 09, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Go Susan!
GailPhillips-Bosshart October 09, 2012 at 10:07 PM
So, what if you are a Muslim woman and must cover your head. No Ron-A-Roll?
Chris Dehnel (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Pete, I am going to have to delete this. We just cannot allow feigned profanity - it's against the Patch Terms of Use policy - http://vernon.patch.com/terms Kindly rephrase ...
carnerm October 10, 2012 at 01:14 AM
just wondering who called the media...and why would anyone expect to be an exception to the rules? arn't they in place for everyones safety? i have had a family member and a very good friend who lost battles with breast cancer, they never put themselves out there as a victim. two of my girl friends battled breast cancer and won both are astonished at this womans behavior. i understand she was rude to the employees who were just doing their jobs. lets try and remember illness is never an excuse for exceptions or bad behavior.
Jim G. October 10, 2012 at 01:28 AM
And precisely WHICH Susan are you?
Debra October 10, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I am an Artistic Skater at Ron a Roll. The company has a policy for a reason and it is CLEARLY STATED before you decide to buy a ticket to skate or NOT to skate that there are NO HATS ALLOWED NO EXCEPTIONS !You allow for one, you have to allow for all. Hey Janna I am sorry for what you are going through but my Mother died from breast cancer. Be happy you are able to live through this and leave the rink alone. You AREN'T RIGHT in this situation. They offered you a helmet like they do for all skaters and you chose not to use it. Sorry but I think your negative press is ridiculous. You're not a victum.
Debra October 10, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Victim
Debra October 10, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Outside of spelling Victim incorrectly due to a typo, I think you owe the employees of Ron a Roll an apology because they were doing their job.
Emily October 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM
About 2 years ago a muslim woman did complain about Ron-A Rolls Headwear policy and she was turned away at the door. This made all the local news outlets.
Susan Morison October 10, 2012 at 11:34 AM
She does not need to apologize for bringing an inhumane interpretation of corporate policy to the public's attention.
John Dolle October 10, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Insurance company underwriters use case law decision and loss experience data to determine what is covered. I advance the idea that the insurance company which underwrites the policy for rink has something to do with the rinks policy. All due to loss prevention.
Victoria Vandelay October 10, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Ms. Lombardo, It was your behavior that ruined your children's experience at the rink, not the rink policy. Accept responsibility for your actions. I was there with my children when this happened and even over the music I heard a woman screaming obscenities from the entrance area. Fortunately, my kids were skating and did not witness this! I proceeded to the area to see if I needed to get my kids out another door and observed a large woman ripping hair from her head and sprinkling it onto the owner of the rink! She was acting like an animal and it was totally uncalled for during a kids skate session, regardless of her situation. Finally, on her way out, she grabbed a stack of flyers and threw them all over the entryway. Frankly, it was unbelievable, like watching one of those reality television crazy people. When I learned what it was all about, I couldn't believe the level of the temper tantrum because I had actually worn a baseball cap to the rink that day removed it without acting like a spoiled two year old. Rules are enforced to protect everyone. Frankly, had the mild mannered owner allowed her a special circumstance, it would open him up to frivolous lawsuits from everyone else!
Dennis Palmer October 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM
not no ron a roll. HELMET. what's hard to understand about this? it's a non issue.
Dennis Palmer October 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM
See... even the patch has rules that there are no exceptions for.... lmao
Dennis Palmer October 10, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Bingo. Other rinks in the area site insurance attorney's advice to defend various rules... It's all the same.
Dennis Palmer October 10, 2012 at 06:54 PM
This woman is the embodiment of a song I remember from a little ways back... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rWKbuzpgZI
Dennis Palmer October 10, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I also can't believe she compared the vanity of being bald to the disability of being blind. Shame. A blind person does not have a seeing eye dog because they are ashamed of the state their eyes are in.
Debra October 11, 2012 at 01:18 AM
I really wish channel 8 would see your comment for the real truth. They are extremely biased in their news delivery.
Rondale Holloway October 11, 2012 at 10:10 AM
I go to ron-a-roll every weekend with my daughter and this is the best place to skate. The owner Jason is very nice and most of his employees are nice as well. My mother has cancer and had to take off her hat as well which is why the next time she wore a wig. I don't know if they did this in a malicious way but I don't think anyone over there would. It is a sad moment for both parties but I will state that the rules are posted BEFORE you walk in with bold letters so I guess it may cause a shock when it may be your first time going there. Please don't forget or take it lightly that I said my own mother has cancer and had to do the same but we personally don't feel it was told to us in a disrespectful tone or manner. The rules are set for protection of the individuals there. Personally and a little off topic, they tell people to only drink and eat in a certain area and folk don't listen and what happens is they end up spilling something on the skate floor and us skaters can't access that part of the floor. They have rules for skating in one direction but when announced people don't listen and wonder why their kids are being knocked down by a large adult. Skating is one of the best sports out there and I truly love it I just wish people would follow the rules a little more.
Rondale Holloway October 11, 2012 at 10:12 AM
this is crazy because i adore this place and no one has ever treated my mother who has cancer in a rude way. this lady should be sued and the media needs to realize we have Jason's back!
Rondale Holloway October 11, 2012 at 10:14 AM
yes she does!! if what i read is true how she acted in the way she did...she does!! i have never in the years i been there with my mother who has cancer ever been treated unfairly. my mother had to do the same which is why she wears a wig there. it is for our safety i am sick of people not paying attention to the rules for serious skaters like myself and my daughter who want to just have fun!
Dennis Palmer October 12, 2012 at 01:28 AM
She needs a good anger management program. The way she acted was aggressive and unsafe. I wouldn't want my kid around this kinda person.

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