With help from members of the 2018 United States Olympic Figure Skating Team — Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, and Maia and Alex Shibutani — Figure Skating in Harlem raised over 1.2 million dollars at its annual Champions in Life Benefit Gala, held on Monday, May 1 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York City. Olympic and world champion figure skaters from past and present such as Scott Allen, Meryl Davis, Tim Goebel, Emily Hughes, Sarah Hughes, Michelle Kwan, JoJo Starbuck, and Paul Wylie joined guests in celebration of the current Olympians, the night’s honorees, Elaine Wynn and Jessica Betts Dreyfuss, and Figure Skating in Harlem’s incredible student athletes, who range in age from 6-18.
The gala’s program opened with a stunning video collaboration between pop icon Beyoncé’s clothing line, Ivy Park, and the girls of Figure Skating in Harlem, which came to be thanks to their shared values of resilience, determination, and recognizing the transformative power of education. FSH Founder & Executive Director Sharon Cohen talked passionately about the organization’s STEM, STEAM, and leadership programs in New York and the expansion to Detroit. Figure Skating in Harlem remains the first and only organization in the country that combines the power of education with the grace and discipline of figure skating to help girls transform their lives and grow in confidence, leadership, and academic achievement.
Joining the skaters on and off the dance floor were high-profile guests from the worlds of sports, television, business, fashion, and more. Just some of those in attendance and supporting Figure Skating in Harlem’s mission were: Duke University’s sports legend (a three-time Olympic medalist for his work with the US Men’s basketball teams) Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Billy King, former GM of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, fashion’s John Varvatos, Silas Chou, and Stacey Bendet Eisner (Alice & Olivia), CNBC’s Courtney Reagan, and business leaders such as Terry Lundgren (former CEO, Macy’s & Bloomingdales), Candace S. Matthews (President – The Americas, Amway), Annie Young-Scrivner (CEO, Godiva), Scott Wagner (CEO, GoDaddy), and others. The gala’s co-chairs included Ellen Lowey, Tina Lundgren, Diana L. Taylor, and Vera Wang.
Vy Higginsen’s Sing Harlem Choir treated the guests to an electrifying performance, infusing the crowd with a spirit and an energy that carried throughout the night. NBC’s Andrea Joyce, a longtime friend and supporter of FSH, served as the event’s emcee. 2002 Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes introduced her longtime friend, Jessica Betts Dreyfuss, an executive at Chelsea Piers, who was one of the event’s honorees. During her remarks, Mrs. Dreyfuss, a former figure skater, talked about the dedication and hard work figure skating requires, saying that FSH students “will be equipped to succeed in whatever path they choose to take in their lives.” Jessica was cheered on by her parents, Lois and Roland W. Betts, developers of Chelsea Piers, as well as Andi and Tom A. Bernstein, and Gail and Gil Ahye (formerly of American Express).
College basketball’s “Greatest Of All Time,” Coach K, took to the podium to introduce his friend, Elaine Wynn. Wynn is an unparalleled business leader, philanthropist, and advocate for children. During her eloquent speech, Wynn talked about the power of coming together to do good, and that “The greatest thing we can do for one another is to empower each other and empower our children.”
Through its award-winning programming, FSH provides girls with innovative skating and education programs that include STEAM and public speaking classes, career and college preparation, health & fitness, and life-skills classes that build champions in life. Recent graduates have gone on to Georgetown University, Spelman, Brown, Boston College, Mount Holyoke, Howard University, and more. FSH was recently featured on ABC News’ Nightline in a piece about how they are fighting discrimination through ice skating.