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Event assembles star skaters to raise money toward cancer research

Ice skating may be an activity that is both fun and imaginative and includes a variety of skills and special tricks. 

When you add in ice skating for a special cause, it can make ice skating even better. The 12th annual Skate for Hope was held Saturday, May 2, in the University’s ice arena. The show featured a cast of various performers, including principal Disney on Ice performer Alexe Gilles, local middle and high school girls and University alumna Alissa Czisny. Skate for Hope originated when a woman in the ice arena industry, Carolyn Bongirno, decided to combine fundraising and ice skating into one. 

“I worked for the Orlando Magic for a while, managing their ice arena building,” Bongirno said. “I was introduced into the ice skating world and wanted to do something to make the kids who had cancer feel empowered, so I decided to combine fundraising and ice skating into one solid event.”

Bongirno manages everything from contacting skaters to managing finances. The very first show took two years to plan and she works on every other show ten months out of the year. 

Host for the show and Vice President of the board for Skate for Hope Patrick Higgins said that the cause stems

from deeper roots.

“Carolyn and I were friends and OSU grads,” Higgins said. “When Carolyn turned 33, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She decided to turn the diagnosis over into something positive, so Skate for Hope became her brainchild.” 

The show and not-for-profit organization is dedicated to cancer research, awareness and health education. 

The group of male and female headliners for the event opened up the show with high energy dancing and skating to Bruno Mars’ hit, “Uptown Funk.”

After the opening scene, Bongirno came out on stage and gave a few remarks, thanking vendors and sponsors for participating in the show. 

“Skate for Hope is a huge commitment,” Bongirno said. “It’s dancers, tickets, costumes, rehearsals. Because of them, we’re gonna have a great party tonight, so enjoy the show!”

The show was divided into two acts with an intermission in between. A group of pink-haired ladies and one male performed a routine and dedicated a cancer medal to one of their members, who is a cancer survivor.

Other performers included groups of girls from Bowling Green middle and high schools and ten headliners.

The headliners performed the major scenes of the night. Performances ranged from regal and serious to funny and whimsical, with group, duo and single performances.

Headliners included Olympian, U.S. national silver medalist and Skate for Hope alum Emily Hughes; four time U.S. national champion and 2010 and 2014 Olympian Jeremy Abbott; University alum and two time U.S. national champion Alissa Czisny; U.S. national pairs champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim; British national champions Caitlin Yankowskas and Hamish Gaman; principal performer with Disney on Ice Alexe Gilles; international professional skating champion and U.S. national bronze medalist Dan Hollander and world team members, U.S. national Ice Dance bronze medalists, four continent champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. 

Other special performances of the night included Mac McDonald or “Coach Mac,” a motivational speaker, the Children’s Choir of Northwest Ohio and a raffle for items ranging from an Elsa doll from Disney’s “Frozen” movie signed by Gilles to a cancer fleece blanket. 

Coach Mac gave some inspirational words between performances to the kids who were in the audience. 

“Never be afraid to approach someone who has cancer, because you guys give us the energy to keep fighting,” Coach Mac said. “I’m a cancer survivor, and there’s nothing I like more than kicking cancer in the teeth, cause cancer doesn’t like when you have a great attitude.”

Alissa Czisny said it’s always good to come home and be a part of a great cause. 

“I grew up in Bowling Green, graduated in 2009 and now live in Detroit, so I have 18 years of memories here,” Czisny said. “It’s always so nice to use a talent I was given and use what I have to give back to other people.”

Alexe Gilles agrees. 

“This is actually my fifth year doing Skate for Hope,” Gilles said. “I did it down in Columbus and now here. It’s always heartwarming to have kids with cancer come up to me and be inspired and all you can do is be positive, tell them to push through.”

Gilles is currently on the Princesses and Heroes tour and will be traveling to Dubai and South America in the coming weeks.

Audience members enjoyed the show. 

“We loved it and now she wants to be an ice skater,” said Shay Vaquera about her daughter, Katie.

Junior Ashley Hillis and her mother liked the show as well.

“It’s always a real treat to see things like this for such a specialcause,” Hillis said.

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