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Figure Skating in Harlem gets set for ninth gala

Olympic skaters, celebrities prepare for inspirational event

Honoree Andrea Joyce (right) at the 2010 FSH gala with Todd Eldredge, Mirai Nagasu (second from left) and producer Catherine Newman.
Honoree Andrea Joyce (right) at the 2010 FSH gala with Todd Eldredge, Mirai Nagasu (second from left) and producer Catherine Newman. (Lois Elfman)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(04/04/2013) - "'Skating with the Stars' is an event I look forward to every single year," said five-time U.S. ice dance champion Tanith Belbin, who has attended the gala fundraiser for Figure Skating in Harlem since 2006.

"Over the years, many of the girls in the program have become my friends, and it seems each time I see them that they have yet another impressive achievement under their belts," she continued. "The girls of FSH are incredible stars, and it's a privilege to take part in an evening which allows them to shine at center ice, for us all to applaud."

Founded in 1997 by Sharon Cohen, FSH is a Harlem-based organization for girls ages 6 to 18 that combines skating lessons with extensive off-ice opportunities, including tutoring; counseling; classes in history, theory, nutrition and finance; and opportunities to experience things like business and government. "Skating with the Stars" is an annual gala held at Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park that has helped fund the program's expansion in recent years.

This year's gala is April 8. The honorees are broadcaster Andrea Joyce, who has attended several past galas, and fashion designer b michael, who has invited members of FSH to his fashion shows.

High school senior Jiordan Ali, who has been involved in FSH for 10 years, expects she'll be emotional when she performs.

"It will be the last time that my group, the open juvenile team, skates our synchro number," said Ali, who will attend Penn State University in the fall to study criminal justice.

When she joined FSH, there were only 50 girls and now there are over 175.

Ali said she's looking forward to seeing Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who has not only attended all but one gala since 2006 (missing 2010 when he was competing on Dancing with the Stars) but has also come to practices at FSH's home rink at Riverbank State Park in Harlem and spent time with the girls.

Adam Rippon is looking forward to attending his third FSH gala.

"I really look forward to seeing the girls every year and see how they're doing," Rippon said. "It's always inspiring to hear their stories and watch them grow up."

The world and Olympic skaters share the ice with the FSH girls and other attendees, but the performing is left strictly to the FSH skaters, who relish showing their routines to the appreciative audiences.

"We introduce ourselves; it's cool," said Kayla Stewart, a high school senior who's been in FSH since first grade. "It's great to interact with the skaters and celebrities."

Stewart credits FSH with helping her achieve her academic goals as well as putting her on her career path. She intends to study international business and finance in college.

This year's benefit committee includes Andy Cohen, Rod and Judy Gilbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Carson Kressley, Rhonda Ross (an honoree last year) and Al Roker. In addition to Belbin, Rippon and Lysacek, other skaters expected to attend include Sarah Hughes (an honoree in 2011), Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen, Paul Wylie, Timothy Goebel (an FSH coach when he was in college at Columbia), Kimmie Meissner and Javier Fernández.

Zjana Ray, a high school junior in her eighth year with FSH, is looking forward to seeing familiar faces at Wollman.

"I enjoy being able to interact with people," said Ray, who shared that meeting singer Kevin Jonas last year was a thrill. "You watch them on TV throughout the year, and now that person is in front of you. It's nice to have conversations with the skaters about what their goals are and what they've been doing."

"The 'Skating with the Stars' gala is awesome because not only do the skaters get to catch up with one another, but it's a fun-filled evening that benefits a great program," Hughes said. "I look forward to it every year!"

There will also be a gala dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant after the skating.