Stars come together for Blades for the Cure

National and international figure skaters donate their time and talents

Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan pose backstage at Blades for the Cure.
Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan pose backstage at Blades for the Cure. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris )


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(04/14/2008) - When other figure skating families face tragedy or illness, much of the time we turn away. That attitude has changed in Colorado Springs, Colo. National and international competitors from the famous Broadmoor Skating Club have put their talents together for Blades for the Cure, a figure skating benefit that took place on April 12, 2008. Some of the proceeds from the show will go to the American Cancer Society.

Blades for the Cure was founded shortly after the father of 2005 U.S. novice men's champion and 2007 U.S. junior men's bronze medalist Austin Kanallakan was diagnosed with multiple myeloma -- a type of cancer. Some of the parents of the national and international competitors from the Broadmoor Skating Club wondered if there was anything they could do to help the Kanallakan family. Jody Flatt, the mother of 2008 world junior champion, Rachael Flatt, who became the chairperson of Blades for the Cure, said that the idea developed in a brainstorming session that took place right in the bleachers of the Colorado Springs World Arena during an advanced power skating class. The plan for the Blades benefit show was born.

An organizing committee came together. Eddie Shipstad, of Shipstad Entertainment and a world arena coach, was asked to direct the show. Damon Allen, another world arena coach, volunteered to co-direct the show. The city of Colorado Springs became involved, and the Sertich Ice Center was willing to give the organizing committee a special price for the use of its arena and ice.

Olympic Champion Peggy Fleming, a breast cancer survivor, agreed to emcee and host the show. Next, the 2008 national and international competitors from the Broadmoor Skating Club were invited to skate in the show. The response was overwhelming.

Everyone wanted to help.

Volunteers and donations came from everywhere. Gift baskets were prepared for the Kanallakan family. The Harlick Skate Company donated a pair of boots to be autographed by all of the show participants and to be auctioned off in a silent auction prior to the event. Fleming donated wine from her vineyard. The Bowlen family, owners of the Denver Broncos, gave a generous donation.

Skaters that participated in the show included world competitors Ryan Bradley and Jeremy Abbott. Bradley, of course, did his famous one foot back flip. Flatt did her trademark layback Ina Bauer. Even though the USOC pair skating camp took place during the same weekend, all of Dalilah Sappenfield's top pairs participated, including 2008 U.S. national champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker. In fact, the show opened with an elaborate pair skating group number that included two sets of multi-team death spirals.

The Broadmoor Skating Club's junior national competitors were highlighted in a group number. Before the young skaters took to the ice, the announcer explained that skating begins at a young age and that today's junior national competitors may become tomorrow's champions. The audience was able to see the young skaters do pair, dance, and free skating moves.

The three-elite level figure skaters from the Gilles family performed, and the two Gilles girls along with Todd Gilles's partner, Jane Summersett, did a trio choreographed by Catarina Lindgren, demonstrating their best skating and dancing skills.

After the finale, all of the show stars stayed to meet and greet the skating fans who had purchased VIP on-ice seating. The atmosphere was one that showed off the wonderful figure skating community in Colorado Springs.

The organizing committee plans that Blades for the Cure will become an annual event, and it is hoped that the show will become an institution similar to An Evening With Champions at Harvard, the most famous ice skating show that benefits cancer research.

Also, it is hoped that each year a prominent personality in figure skating will host the event, as Fleming did this year. Shipstad Entertainment plans to volunteer its time and talents for the show for many years to come.