With more than 450 people in attendance, Figure Skating in Harlem held its Champions in Life benefit gala on Monday evening, April 29. It has been another extraordinary year for the organization, which was founded in 1997 by Sharon Cohen. The program serves girls from the community ages six to 18, and of this year’s six graduating seniors three have been with the organization for eight years or more.
“That’s where I find my second home,” said high school junior Cheyenne Walker, who took part in the spoken word piece performed at the gala. “I find it really fun and fulfilling to help the little girls, especially on the ice. Last summer, I taught my own class. It not only helped reinforce my basic skating skills, but it also helped me show the girls what I learned.”
The FSH program combines on-ice lessons with off-ice tutoring, counseling, college prep and classes on financial literacy and self-esteem. There are also exciting off-ice opportunities for program participants. Cohen said next year a group from FSH will travel to South Africa to be ambassadors and teach girls in South Africa about skating.
“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts was one of this year’s honorees. “She’s an extraordinary role model—a sportswoman, a broadcaster,” said Cohen. “She’s broken barriers and is a superstar in every sense of the word.”
Craig Livingston, managing partner, Exact Capital Group, was also honored. Livingston is currently developing a project in Harlem that will include affordable housing. The final honoree was former figure skater Timothy Goebel. When he was an undergraduate at Columbia University, Goebel coached FSH skaters at Riverbank State Park and he is now on the advisory board.
“Having spent time on the ice with the young women and seeing them work to learn new skills and eventually attain those skills, I saw their excitement,” said Goebel, who now works at Google. “They understand the day in and day out frustration and then the eventual triumph when they’re able to perfect a new skill and go out and perform either in a show or competition.”
Also on hand at the benefit were three leaders from Figure Skating in Detroit, launched two years ago utilizing FSH’s model. Earlier this year, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held in Detroit. Five FSH skaters joined the FSD girls to perform at the championship exhibition.
“To be able to spread our impact to another group of girls and see the same joy and learning taking place is absolutely wonderful,” said Cohen.