Evening with Champions celebrates 40 years

By Brandon Penny
Special to Figure Skaters Online

On April 16-17, more than 50 skaters including 2009 U.S. Junior Men’s Champion Ross Miner and 2009 World Junior Championship bronze medalists Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir joined together in the fight against pediatric cancer.  This year’s Evening with Champions celebrated the non-profit organization’s 40th anniversary.

Evening with Champions s an annual skating exhibition organized solely by the volunteer work of Harvard University students.  All profits from the show and concurrent silent auction go straight to the Jimmy Fund, which is the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Over the past 39 years, the show has raised over $2.4 million for the Jimmy Fund.

“The quality of the event is very high, so it’s always an honor to be invited to skate,” said Miner, who withdrew from 2010 nationals and Junior Worlds because of an ankle injury. “And it’s obviously a fantastic organization that it supports.”

Miner was first invited to skate in Evening with Champions when he was 9 years old.  He is now 19 and participating in his fourth show.  Miner is a crowd favorite since he trains at the Skating Club of Boston, which is only two minutes from Harvard’s Bright Hockey Center.

Castelli and Shnapir also train at the Skating Club of Boston, and this year was their first Evening with Champions. “We were so happy to do the show, and it’s a great experience to meet all these great skaters, and to skate with our fellow athletes,” said Shnapir.  ”

“I’m hoping we get asked back.  It’s been wonderful so far.  So many people, so much experience, it’s a great show,” added Castelli.

One of the skaters’ favorite parts of the EWC experience is meeting the children from the Jimmy Fund. “We actually had dinner with this one girl.  She was a cancer survivor, and she’s 14, and it’s amazing what she’s been through already,” said Castelli.

“It opens your eyes to see these kids who some of them are 9 or 10 years old and they’ve already gone through chemo, radiation, surgery.  And they’re just so happy to be there.  To be able to go through all of that and still have a smile on your face is pretty impressive,” Miner said.

And for both the crowd and the current skaters, one of the best parts of the show is watching figure skating royalty like 1968 Olympic Champion Peggy Fleming and  two-time Olympic Champion Dick Button host the show. Fans were also treated to seeing 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, mentor of Rachael Flatt, and 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, mentor to Jeremy Abbott, skate together.

“I met Paul Wylie my first time and that was like the highlight of my year,” Miner said.

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Photo courtesy of Leah Adams

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Photo courtesy of Leah Adams