Hughes blog: 'The Skate Against Breast Cancer'
Olympians Goebel, Starbuck host benefit show at Bryant Park
|The Hughes sisters, Sarah (left) and Emily, jumped at the opportunity to take part in "The Skate Against Breast Cancer." (courtesy of Sarah Hughes)|
Her answer was simple: whatever you want.
Spontaneity was the main theme throughout Saturday's "The Skate Against Breast Cancer," presented by Iced Pink, Inc. The New York skating community gathered in the early evening at midtown's beautiful outdoor Citi Pond at Bryant Park. Everyone came to contribute whatever they could to make the show fun, entertaining and a success -- a celebration of skating, family and friends, the same ingredients many of those in the show had used as a recipe to cope with their personal cancer experiences.
Two-time Olympian JoJo Starbuck (whose mother was a breast cancer survivor) and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel hosted the show.
"I thought they were really great," said Retzkin, the show's assistant producer and casting director. "They kept it short, sweet and entertaining."
The first number featured 7-year-old twins, Alexandra and Natalie Parker (my nieces), doing a duo to "Sisters." They were joined at the end by four more Hughes siblings and Starbuck's 10th-grade sons, Abraham and Noah Starbuck-Gertler, also twins. While Natalie and Alexandra tried their best to ignore their new skating troupe, they agreed to bow with them.
Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukov -- 2006 Olympians and founders and directors of Fever On Ice, an award-winning youth program that combines academics and athletics -- skated to Andrea Boccelli's "Time to Say Goodbye." Two years ago Melissa lost her mom to cancer, and now she donates much of her time to raising money for cancer research, awareness and support.
Representing the Ice Theatre of New York, Eve Chalom, a former world competitor in ice dancing, displayed her new pairs moves with Jonathon Hunt. They skated to "Baby, It's Cold Outside," even though the temperature was downright balmy for January.
Bringing an upbeat tempo to the show, Nicole Bobek skated and shimmied her way through Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," continuing her comeback on the ice. The U.S. champion, world bronze medalist and Olympian says it took her seven years to realize she wanted to embrace the sport rather than run from it. No matter where her life takes her, she said, "The good things from my skating past will never leave me."
Bobek credits Starbuck for her unwavering support throughout the past few years. Starbuck has been instrumental in Bobek's spiritual journey as well as regaining her skating form. The two have become so close that Bobek often visits Starbuck from her Florida base to stay with Starbuck and her family in Starbuck's New Jersey home.
"I wanted to do something upbeat and fun here," Bobek said of her music choice. "I did the Gladiator number, which is slower, in the Caesar's show a few weeks ago and then again on the 'Today Show,' so I wanted to do something more uplifting. We're outside, it's a beautiful day -- I want people to feel good."
Starbuck called the music "the anthem of breast cancer survivors everywhere" and said that music like this was important to keep skating fun for Bobek.
Bobek was one of the first skaters asked to participate in the show. After seeing how Starbuck supported Bobek throughout the last few years, and having watched her perform in Skate for Love, a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (another breast cancer event) last April, Retzkin witnessed the kind of relationship the show should be founded on -- and feature -- one that was sympatico with the support network the proceeds of "The Skate Against Breast Cancer" were going to fund.
"Nicole was a dream to work with and wanted to be part of it from the start," Retzkin said. "I hope she continues to skate a lot in the future. It is great to have her energy and enthusiasm back."
Starbuck and Goebel didn't need to be asked twice to participate either. Retzkin was introduced to the show by Shannon Leigh Lenihan, the show's producer, and was asked to reach out to some of the skaters she knew.
"Actually," Retzkin said, "everybody I asked about this benefit said yes immediately. Nobody said, 'Let me think about it.' JoJo, Kimmie, Timmy ... everybody was right there, ready to go."
"Even though we had dinner together the night before, we didn't talk about what we were skating to!" Hughes said. "Luckily, we found out two hours before the show. We were skating back to back, so it's good we were able to mix up the music selection for the audience."
Hughes ended up skating to "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. She skated the program in honor of our mom, a breast cancer survivor.
Meissner, the 2006 world champion, closed the show skating to Adele's chart-topper "Rollin' in the Deep." Meissner, co-founder of the Cool Kids Campaign, is deeply devoted to helping children affected by cancer. The Cool Kids Campaign is a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with cancer and their families.
After losing two friends to cancer, Meissner refused to sit on the sidelines. When she was 15, she lost her friend Kati, also 15, to cancer.
"We always talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up," Messiner said, "And mine was always to go to the Olympics. Hers was to run in a marathon for Team in Training. She passed away a few months before I made the Olympic team in 2006."
In memoriam to Kati, this past October, Meissner ran the Baltimore half-marathon with Team in Training.
She is partnering with John Hopkins Hospital to launch a learning facility in conjunction with the oncology ward so kids undergoing treatment don't have to miss big chunks of school.
"When I started to have success in skating, I knew that I wanted to somehow use it to help cancer patients," Meissner said.
After her performance, Starbuck asked when we could watch her skate again. Meissner told the crowd she will be performing in Romance on Ice, airing on Valentine's Day on NBC at 4:00 p.m. EST.
It was, in fact, two 10-year-old girls who brought this show together. Although treatments are ever evolving, the statistics for women in Long Island, N.Y., being diagnosed with breast cancer are still grim: One in eight women will be struck with the devastating news.
Brooke Cenname, whose mom, Bari, is a breast cancer survivor and is one of Iced Pink Inc.'s founders, was thrilled to be part of the hour-long show.
"It felt really good to skate in the same show as Olympic skaters," Brooke said, "And also to skate in front of so many people for such a great cause."
Illana Sherman, the 10-year old daughter of Iced Pink Inc.'s other founder, breast cancer survivor Nancy Sherman, also performed.
"It was amazing to skate in the same show as Olympians Emily, Kimmie, Nicole, Denis and Melissa," Illana said.
Afterward, the young girls had the skaters sign as much of their stuff as they could, even going as far as taking off their sneakers to pass around for the cast to sign.
"It was a very successful evening," Retzkin said. "I can't thank everyone enough. It was beyond what I thought it would be. The whole evening was fabulous."
There are plans to have the benefit again next year.
"I spoke to JoJo about it after the show, and I have a lot of ideas for things we can do next year. The concept of the show is fabulous, and I look forward to continuing my involvement."
Illana Sherman is equally committed.
"I hope there is a cure for breast cancer soon so no one has to suffer from it anymore."