Busy Manley finds time to give back through show

Canadian Olympian plans gala benefit to help teen mental health initiatives

Elizabeth Manley is planning a gala dinner and skating show to be held in Ottawa this January.
Elizabeth Manley is planning a gala dinner and skating show to be held in Ottawa this January. (Valerie Keeler)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(11/08/2012) - These days, three-time Canadian champion, and Olympic and world silver medalist Elizabeth Manley finds herself incredibly busy, and she's absolutely delighted. She's deftly juggling speaking engagements, TV work, Skate Canada assignments, coaching and performing, all while tirelessly working on "Elizabeth Manley & Friends," a benefit show scheduled for Jan. 26 in her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario.

The evening prior to the ice show, Jan. 25, there will be a gala dinner at the Brookstreet Hotel. Then, on Jan. 26, skating stars Joannie Rochette, Elvis Stojko, Nancy Kerrigan, Jozef Sabovcik, Shawn Sawyer, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will take to the ice at Scotiabank Place to perform. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to two organizations focused on teen mental health: Do It for Daron and Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa.

"This is a huge project for me," Manley said. "I'm so passionate about mental health because of my history of going through depression before the Sarajevo Olympics and quitting skating, taking that pathway of getting help and coming out with the medal four years later.

"It's kind of my way to give back to Ottawa," she added. "They did so much for me in my career. I'm kind of Ottawa's girl. I wanted to start doing something that I can make a bigger impact."

Manley frequently speaks to groups about teen mental health issues. She recently traveled to Calgary to host a luncheon for Juno House, an organization which works with young women battling depression and eating disorders.

Manley is also the national spokesperson for Ovarian Cancer Canada, a cause very close to her, having lost her mother to ovarian cancer three years ago. After living in the United States for many years, she returned home to Canada when her mother was diagnosed.

"I fell apart when my mom died. I was really close to her," Manley said. "One day, I just literally sat up and said, 'I have to do something. I have to make a difference.' "

She's also an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, the disease that took her father's life.

These days, Manley, 47, is feeling inspired in all aspects of her life and career. She began working with Skate Canada doing in-house commentary alongside Debbi Wilkes at Skate Canada in Windsor, Ontario. They'd preview each event before it started and then share a bit of insight with the audience about each performance while skaters awaited their scores.

"We're trying to make it fun and lighthearted for the crowd," Manley said. After Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir performed to Carmen, Manley couldn't resist a humorous reflection about her 1988 Olympic experience, when gold medalist Katarina Witt and bronze medalist Debi Thomas engaged in the "Battle of the Carmens."

"I said, 'It took me 25 years to listen to Carmen and I'm actually enjoying it now,'" joked Manley. "The audience seemed to love it."

She will be doing the same sort of work for Skate Canada at the upcoming Canadian and world championships.

Manley has also been fairly busy with a non-skating TV gig. She works as a fill-in anchor for "CTV Morning Live" in Ottawa. The 4:00 a.m. call time isn't that challenging for someone accustomed to skating hours.

The show's host, Kurt Stoodley, will emcee the gala dinner in January.

"I've been loving it. It's so much fun because I get to interview people with all types of lifestyles and different things," she said.

"Elizabeth Manley & Friends" is her first outing as a producer. Husband Brent Theobald, a former hockey player who earned a business degree and is now a financial adviser, is working with her.

"I hope people will come out and support it," Manley said. "Not only to see a great ice show and singers, but it's for a great cause, and that's really what it's about. I'm hoping to make this a yearly event, and every year I would like it to benefit a new charity that I'm passionate about."