Harlem figure skating gala pivots from ice to internet

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2016, file photo, Kristi Yamaguchi attends the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Party held at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. Unable to stage its annual major fundraiser due to the coronavirus pandemic, Figure Skating in Harlem is going from the ice to the internet.The Figure Skating in Harlem Champions in Life Virtual Gala will be held on May 14 and will feature Olympics champions Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, FIle)
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2016, file photo, Kristi Yamaguchi attends the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Party held at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. Unable to stage its annual major fundraiser due to the coronavirus pandemic, Figure Skating in Harlem is going from the ice to the internet.The Figure Skating in Harlem Champions in Life Virtual Gala will be held on May 14 and will feature Olympics champions Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, FIle)

Unable to stage its big fundraiser because of the pandemic, Figure Skating in Harlem is going from the ice to the internet.

The Figure Skating in Harlem Champions in Life Virtual Gala will be held May 14 and will feature Olympic champions Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis.

The 23-year-old group is the only organization for girls of color that combines education with access to the athletic and artistic discipline of figure skating.

“Pivoting is a skating term,” says Sharon Cohen, the organization's founder and CEO, “and we pivoted and decided we could showcase the show virtually. Anybody can log on to the gala, it is free to watch, and we hope people will support us through it.

"We took the basic structure of our gala and asked what could we adapt? Certainly our creed, speeches by the girls, our seniors growing up in the program. And lots of celebrities.”

Honorees this year are FSH Alumnus and Goldman Sachs Vice President Sherrie Smith; Olympian JoJo Starbuck; and Angela Thompson Howard, UPS vice president of human resources. The hosts will be sportscaster Andrea Joyce and newsman Harry Smith. Among those appearing will be Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state who figure skated as a youngster, and comic Andy Cohen.

Yamaguchi, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, took questions from FSH member Raven Williams.

“They are bringing in personalities to add to the virtual aspect of all this and to be able to send a quick message of support and encouragement,” says Yamaguchi, whose educational initiative, Always Dream, also is in its 24th year.