Skating with the stars

Apr 07, 2009

Figure skating is not really my thing. But after last night, I’ll take another look.

Last night, a few of us attended an annual event for Figure Skating in Harlem in New York City, which Amway sponsored. We met some of the girls who participate in the program – and were quite impressed.

FSH works with 125 girls each year, most starting the program at six or seven years old. They are given the opportunity to learn figure skating, which is an intense sport that requires a big commitment of time, physical training and mental focus. The program provides both trainers and counselors for the girls and sets very high standards for academic achievement in order to stay in the program. More than 1,000 girls have participated in the last eleven years.

Sharon Cohen, the founder and executive director, has done a wonderful job building the program. And it was easy to see the results. The girls we met were extremely poised and confident. They were doing great in school, they have support systems with other skating friends, and they had a new talent they could be proud of.

In fact, they were still a little bit giddy about appearing on the Today Show that morning, where they skated in Rockefeller Center and were interviewed on “the couch.” (If you watch the show, you know what that is!) Check out the link to the video by clicking here.

The FSH program is supported by some superstars of skating. We met Evan Lysacek, Kimmie Meissner, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto – a group with an impressive number of Olympic medals among them.

They were all clearly excited to be there. After the formal meeting at a pre-event reception, we talked to Kimmie, one of the younger skaters. She loved being there because it brought her back to why she loved the sport in the first place. She was also impressed by the high marks the girls get in school. Many skaters have to do independent studies because so much of the time is spent training, so to balancing full-time school and an intensive training program for skating is not easy to do.

FSH operates on a small budget and gets many of its services donated pro-bono, like the beautiful uniforms donated by Macy’s. They also get visibility through some television stars, like Star Jones from The View, the event co-chair, and Tamara Tunie from Law and Order. Donald Trump is also a strong supporter, although we didn’t get to see him this year.

Our head of Global Marketing, Candace Matthews, gets credit for connecting us to Figure Skating in Harlem. She was involved with the organization before she moved to Amway headquarters in Michigan. She is now the chair of the board and brings a ton of energy to the organization (like she does to ours). I’m sure she’ll have it replicated throughout the country soon.

I must admit that we hesitated when she told us about a figure skating program in New York that Amway should consider sponsoring. Now I see the connection. Providing kids an opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have … giving them a foundation for all-around personal development … using skating as a tool to build physical fitness and confidence. That’s certainly what One by One is about.

Figure Skating Harlem - Skaters

The FSH skaters who hosted us. They were vetrans of the program!

Figure Skating Harlem - Stars

Evan Lysacek, Ben Agosto, Tanith Belbin, Kimmie Meissner, Sharon Cohen and Candace Matthews

Figure Skating Harlem - Ice

Skating in Central Park – after the rain stopped

Figure Skating Harlem - Celebration

The FSH celebration with all of the skaters, stars and media


    • Guest says:

      This is great summary Jesse. Figure Skating in Harlem is an awesome organization and the girls involved in the program are equally awesome. I look forward to next year’s Gala.

    • Guest says:

      Nice indeed…


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