by Catherine Amodeo
Synchronized skating teams across the country often involve themselves in projects that benefit their communities. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 13 million people are living with cancer in the U.S. alone, meaning that synchronized skaters’ communities all across the country are affected by this disease. Many teams band together to celebrate cancer survivors and fight for a cure through events and projects throughout the season, and especially during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. Not only are these projects a great way to benefit a large group of people, they also provide teams with a chance to connect off the ice and learn more about one another.
The Philadelphia Symmetry teams and the Liberty Figure Skating Club pride itself on reaching out and impacting their community in a positive way. Each month, the directors and parent volunteers come together and organize a service project for skaters to implement. Recently, they participated in a service project to benefit cancer patients who are currently undergoing chemotherapy. The skaters were asked to bring in comfort items for the patients in addition to hand-made cards with encouraging and kind messages. Skaters also wore pink ribbons in their hair to practices . Other service projects included Hugs and Smiles notecards for senior citizens residing in centers who don’t usually receive visitors, Operation Christmas Child where they sent gifts to places like Haiti and Cuba and Stuff the Bus where they “stuffed a bus” full of backpacks containing basic care items for children in need.
Co-director Kati Link emphasized the importance of making these activities extremely hands-on and educational for the skaters. For example, the skaters realize that a Christmas present to a child in Haiti could be something we use in our everyday lives, like a toothbrush. Things like this really put the world into perspective for the skaters.
Kati says this all wouldn’t be possible without the compassionate, kind-hearted skaters and families that make up the teams. For her, no activity focuses on money, rather it’s about the impact the project has on the community and the skaters. These activities ground them, Kati says, and give them an opportunity to think of the needs of others. Since the monthly activities began, she has noticed a difference in the behavior of the skaters. She hopes that these activities continue to consistently mold the skaters and build a community within their club both on and off the ice.
The Adrian College Varsity Synchronized Skating teams participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and surpassed their goal by raising a whopping $6,190 for the event. Relay for Life is an overnight community fundraising walk where teams camp out around a track. Members of each team take turns walking around the track, while food, games and activities provide entertainment and build camaraderie. It is a family-friendly environment; perfect for the entire community to get involved, and perfect for Adrian since some of the skaters had participated before and enjoyed it.
The teammates knew there were several girls who had personal connections with people who passed away from cancer, but it wasn’t until the skaters arrived at the event and started to fill out Luminaria Bags to place around the track that they realized how many of their teammates had been affected by cancer. This moment brought their team closer together. Adrian skater Maddie Sena says that it is events like these where you get to know the most about your teammates. “It is a chance for us to bring up meaningful memories and be there to support each other,” she says.
The feedback the teams received was touching. People approached the skaters during the event and thanked them for their efforts and enthusiasm throughout the night. “It made us feel important and connected with the community,” Maddie said, “It really opened our eyes as to how much we as individuals and as a team can do if we put in the effort, and made us want to give in even more ways.” The most beneficial part of this for Maddie was the chance to connect with her teammates on a deeper level throughout the night. She also loved knowing that she was able to do something meaningful and appreciated by the community.
Team Image founder Sylvia Muccio touched many skaters’ lives, especially Olivia Pisani’s. Oliva had been one of Sylvia’s private students even before she began skating synchro under her direction. They grew very close over the years. Sylvia became like a second mother to Olivia, teaching her not only how to skate, but many life lessons as well. Olivia learned never to give up, the importance of teamwork and how to rely on others for help. Now she realizes how truly important these lessons are and that she will look back on them for her entire life. When Olivia was upset, Sylvia always knew the right thing to say. When Sylvia passed away from breast cancer, Olivia was devastated. Since her passing, Team Image has walked in their local breast cancer walk in Sylvia’s honor. Every year they get new pink shirts to wear for the walk, with the proceeds going towards the cause.
This walk has really brought the team together, Olivia says. One thing they all have in common besides their love of synchro is their love for Sylvia. “Doing this walk is like saying thank you for everything she’s done for us,” Olivia says. Before competitions, the teams never fail to mention Sylvia. She is included in their motivational speeches. The skaters make the effort to be there for each other just as Sylvia would have been for them. Remembering Sylvia will always be on the minds of Team Image skaters. Olivia looks forward to the walk each year, a time where she and her teammates come together to show their undying support for a cause and a person near and dear to their hearts.
The support that synchro teams receive from their communities is great, which makes giving back feel that much better. Helping to strengthen bonds on and off the ice, these actions help not only those suffering from cancer, but the skaters themselves. With the help of Philadelphia Symmetry, the Adrian College Varsity teams, Team Image and many others, the synchronized skating community is making its mark in the fight against cancer.