Ice Network

Skaters discuss charitable works at FSH gala

Davis 'honored' to be involved in organization's expansion into Detroit
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There was star power aplenty at Figure Skating in Harlem's "Skating with the Stars" gala Monday night in Manhattan. -Nick McCarvel

Known as a can't-miss event year in and year out in the figure skating world, the "Skating with the Stars" fundraiser thrown by Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) took on a different tone this year -- a fancier one.

Held at event space 583 Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the annual gala had the sport and its biggest supporters dressed to the nines (or 5.9s on the old system) Monday night as it honored Evan Lysacek, activist Gloria Steinem and Feld Entertainment for their work with and around the nonprofit that serves as an educational and empowerment tool for young girls in Harlem.

"I think it's great to see an organization use a sport that we're so passionate about to inspire kids to excel in school and in their lives," said Kristi Yamaguchi, stepping off the red carpet for an interview. "The reward is skating."

The reward for attendees was to be in the midst of plenty of star power. Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, Sarah Hughes, Meryl Davis, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Paul Wylie, Michael Weiss and Sasha Cohen graced the proceedings with their presence, as did Davis' Dancing with the Stars partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, with whom she performed.

After the two danced to Alesso's "Heroes" to a standing ovation, Davis took the stage to make a big announcement: FSH is expanding to Detroit, where Davis and fellow Olympic gold medalist Charlie White will further activate their roles with the organization.

"Both Charlie and I are from the Detroit area, and we understand how important it is to have an amazing program like this in that area," Davis said.

While Davis expressed her excitement over the new chapter for FSH, she is still in the beginning stages of figuring out her own foundation, which she told icenetwork will help to empower young women. What exactly it'll be, however, is still to be determined.

"It is a huge undertaking, which I knew going in, but I really want to do it right," Davis said. "People keep asking me (about the foundation), and I don't have very many answers. I'm really in the research stage and talking to people and having meetings. I'm trying to understand the business and financial sides of things, and I'm reaching out to people for help to try and learn."

Yamaguchi's children's literacy foundation, Always Dream, continues to grow, she said, moving outside of her home state of California for the first time.

"We're in Hawaii now as well and really excited about that and looking forward to getting into even more schools," the Bay Area resident said. "We are now in 17 schools total, working with 1,600 students, so we are looking to grow more and more. Part of our vision is to expand and become more national; that's our long-term goal."

Wylie continues his work with Johnson & Johnson's corporate wellness program, and Cohen detailed a nonprofit she's working with called Orphaned Starfish, which helps make computers and technology available to kids in orphanages throughout Latin America.

Perhaps no one seems to be as busy as Kwan, who next month will serve as the commencement speaker at Salve Regina College in Newport, Rhode Island. Ever the perfectionist, she's still honing in on the speech she'll give to the graduating class.

"It's a big responsibility; it's nerve-wracking!" said Kwan, who wore a sparkly gray dress with a black New York skyline pattern emblazoned across it. "You have the attention of all the graduating students and are trying to send them off to the real world and inspire them. I'm thinking long and hard about what I'm going to say. I will apply some of the lessons I learned in skating, for sure."

That's not all. Kwan will also help lead the torch run for the Special Olympics World Games next month in the lead-up to the event, which takes place in her home city of Los Angeles beginning in late July. She's also just begun working with the Rhode Island Council on the Arts, appointed by the state's governor last month.

"I think the most important thing is being able to encourage young people to get involved in arts," said Kwan, whose husband, Clay Pell, was a candidate for governor in Rhode Island last year. "I learned so much through sports, but I know that musicians and artists learn so much by being involved in a craft and finding that passion."

The passion was evident from Lysacek, one of the night's honorees, in part because of his more than 10 years working with FSH.

"It seems quite logical, or at least relevant, for a skater to support Figure Skating in Harlem, but my involvement and unwavering support for this organization goes much deeper than the sport that acts as one of its pillars," Lysacek told the audience. "What makes [this organization] so powerful to me are the virtues at its core of commitment to excellence, discipline, humility and respect...all of the things that I value the most in the world. It's why I admire (FSH founder) Sharon Cohen and Figure Skating in Harlem for what they've done."

Perhaps the biggest news of the night was the expansion into Detroit, something Davis said she's very much looking forward to.

"This is an amazing organization that does amazing things," she said. "I've been a part of this event for many years, and Charlie and I are starting to work with the organization a little more closely. We're definitely honored."