Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paying It Forward

"The world can seem like an unfriendly, threatening place, yet we all want safety, health, and happiness for ourselves and our loved ones. How can one ordinary person -- you or me -- make a positive difference in this world? One way is the practice 'paying it forward.' While the steps might be simple, the outcome could change the world."
Just when I start wondering if people care about what's happening outside of their own day-to-day lives, I am surprised. Such was the case this past week when some people I didn't really know stepped up and showed their support for things that meant a lot to them. In their own way, they took a small step to make a difference and in doing so they made a giant leap to change lives.
   The first event took place quickly. Senior competitor Sean Rabbitt was so moved by the events on 3/11 in Japan that he organized and pulled off a fantastic Tsunami Relief fundraising skating event in Ontario, California called "Skaters Care." With the help of his family and the support of the Glacier Falls FSC, American Airlines, the Citizens Bank Arena, Holiday Inn and a group of skating friends, Sean pulled together a great show with top skaters. No advertising other than social media (Twitter and Facebook). Nothing but an overwhelming desire to DO something. This red-headed, freckle-faced young man who speaks Japanese brought in some impressive "firepower" on the ice. Approximately 1,000 people, who were dwarfed in the very large arena that will house Skate America this season, were treated to a wonderful show choreographed by Karen Kwan Oppegard. There was a synchro team; there were Olympic and world champion speed skaters; there were competitive skaters of all levels who put their hearts into the cause. It was impressive. So far, "Skaters Care" has raised more than $15,000 and money is still coming in. Donations will go through AA's American Giving non-profit and be given the the Red Cross.
  Next was Figure Skating in Harlem's "Skating with the Stars" benefit in New York City. Started by former competitive skater Sharon Cohen, the program has impacted hundreds of inner city girls ages 6-18,  providing them with vital educational and skating opportunities that build self-worth and promote physical well being and academic achievement.
  "Proud Nation" is a skating show in Hartford, Connecticut of almost epic visual proportions. The brainchild of Olympic ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov through their "Olympic Fever on Ice" program, the show raises money to support academics and athletics for kids who need help. Incorporating Cirque du Soleil, Moscow Circus and live music, the show stretches the limits of imagination and shows what is possible when creativity meets education.
  Finally, there was a show in West Orange, New Jersey this week. "One Step Closer" was  promoted by another skater, Tim David. In its second season, this event brought together some great competitors, all to benefit the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children. Again driven by social media and some advertising, this program featured competitive skaters of all levels, along with performers and Olympic guest skaters, all in support of a very important cause.
   So, as I said: Just when I start wondering if people care about what's happening outside of their own day-to-day lives, I am surprised - and thrilled that within our skating community there are athletes who are truly "paying it forward" by donating their time and talents, not because it brings them into the celebrity spotlight but because they found a cause that touched them. They owned it and decided they could make a difference.
   It's amazing how so much love and so much ice can melt the heart. 

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