‘Champions’ Skate for Cancer Fund

5,000 turn out for 33rd ‘Evening With Champions’

Olympic medalists and local figure skaters performed for nearly 5,000 spectators at the 33rd annual production of Evening with Champions this weekend.

Two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie ’91, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist, co-hosted the show.

The event, sponsored by Eliot House, and held at the Bright Athletic Center, faced significant setbacks last year when Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) decided not to televise the show.

This year marked the second time in 25 years that the show did not appear on national television.

In July, the event’s co-chairs were offered a prime time spot on ESPN opposite “Monday Night Football,” but they decided against televising this year’s show.

“We would have paid ESPN a large amount of money to have an hour-long spot and then we would have to sell the commercials to fit into that spot,” said Christopher R. Laumann ’03, co-chair of Evening with Champions.

But the co-chairs said this change has allowed them to pay more attention to the show’s purpose.

“I really wanted to bring the focus of the show back to the Jimmy Fund,” said Heather M. Langdon ’03, co-chair of Evening with Champions. “That’s what the show benefits, and I felt like that had gotten lost in past years.”

The Jimmy Fund supports cancer research and helps provide patient care for children with cancer.

In the effort to emphasize the purpose of the event, the show’s organizers toured the Jimmy Fund Clinic with the professional ice skaters.

The demanding rehearsal schedule for the televised Evening with Champions had in past years prevented the skaters from making a clinic visit, Langdon said.

Some performers said the tour of the clinic was a highlight of the weekend.

“It puts a face on what we’re here for. You actually get to see the individual children that we’re helping,” said Tanith Belbin, who skated with partner Benjamin Agosto. The pair earned a gold medal in the 2002 World Junior Championship.

Performers also had a chance to interact with the children in the Jimmy Fund Clinic at a party held Saturday afternoon.

The children also attended the Saturday night show.

Among the more unique performances was skater Lucinda Ruh’s routine inspired by Sept. 11.

Dressed in a head-to-toe gold body suit, Ruh demonstrated the 270-revolution-per-minute spins that made her famous in the skating world.

Local skaters’ acts included a performance on Friday night by the Harvard Figure Skating Club.

The event raised between $37,000 and $40,000 for the Jimmy Fund, Laumann said.

Although the event had netted around $100,000 in past years, the withdrawal of PBS as a sponsor last year forced Evening with Champions to shoulder expensive production costs, Laumann said.

Organizers said they were pleased with this year’s Evening with Champions because it benefited both the Jimmy Fund and impacted those involved with the event.

“I’m just so proud that Harvard has something like this. ” Langdon said. “This really gave me a chance to step outside myself.”