Figure Skating in Harlem students

Figure Skating in Harlem students performing on ice at Wollman Rink in New York City Central Park at gala

*In 1997 Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) began with a handful of girls from East Harlem who wanted to figure skate.  Now some fifteen years later, the organization is comprised of 200 girls and still going strong.

As a full-fledged education, fitness and mentoring program preparing these girls for higher education, healthy lifestyles and the skills to achieve their highest aspirations, this exceptional pioneering not-for-profit organization continues to use the discipline and artistry of ice skating combined with the power of education to inspire generations of young women to succeed in all aspects of life.

On Monday, April 2, 2012, more than 600 guests strapped up their skates and joined FSH for the milestone celebration at its signature benefit event Skating with the Stars at the Wollman Rink in Central Park in New York City.

The spectacular skating soiree included a night of ice skating, autographs, photos, dinner and star watching.  The stellar benefit gala raised approximately $700,000.  This amount will increase favorably once the Skating with the Stars auction – that runs through April 17, 2012 at — officially closes.

Auctioneers will be able to bid on such unique items as a chance to meet President William “Bill” Clinton, Vera Wang, Soledad O’Brien, Carson Kressley, Brian Boitano, Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen, Sophie & Katherine from DC Cupcakes, and many, many more.

The festive evening honored international fashion designer Vera Wang and dynamic Figure Skating in Harlem patron Ellen Lowey and Harlem artist and entrepreneur Rhonda Ross-Kendrick.

diana ross & others

Honoree Rhonda Ross with family (left to right) Rodney Kendrick, Diana Ross, honoree Vera Wang, Rhonda holding son Raif Kendrick, Robert Ellis Silberstein, Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee

Rhonda who received the coveted star leadership award was cheered on by her legendary mother Diana Ross, her husband, jazz musician Rodney Kendrick, their son Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick, her father Robert Ellis Silberstein, and her Aunt Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee.

Funds raised from the event will benefit FSH’s innovative academics and fitness program for underserved girls, transforming the lives of these 6-18year-olds and helping them to grow in confidence, leadership, and academic success.

Through its unique programming, FSH empowers young girls by combining educational, artistic, and fitness opportunities through the discipline of skating.  Proceeds from the gala are vital and will provide continued support of FSH which is constantly growing to meet the needs of the girls it serves as it expands into its new Leading Edge Academic Center and plans for the creation of a home ice rink of its own to anchor in the community.

“FSH is a vital resource for girls in some of the most under-served communities in New York City.  We are continuing to expand our programs as we plan for a future home ice rink of our own with state-of-the-art educational facilities to anchor in the community,” commented FSH’s founder and executive director Sharon Cohen.

The event attracted the crème de la crème of movers and shakers including designers Kenneth Cole, and b michael, business moguls Donald Trump, Terry Lundgren and Stephen Bollenbach, and television personalities Soledad O’Brien, Tamara Tunie, Jake T. Austin, Rebecca Budig, BD Wong, Harry Smith, Kevin & Dani Jonas, Emme, New York Rangers legend Rod Gilbert, and Celebrity Apprentice stars Dee Snider and Dayana Mendoza.

Throughout the evening, guests skated with Olympic legend Scott Hamilton, reigning Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek, and many more Olympic and world-class skaters including Olympic Champions Sarah Hughes and Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen (Olympic Silver Medalist), Todd Eldredge (World Champion), Tanith Belbin (Olympic Silver Medalist with partner Ben Agosto), Joannie Rochette (Olympic Bronze Medalist), Paul Wylie (Olympic Silver Medalist), and Nicole Bobek (World Bronze Medalist).

Also the entire 2012 United States World Team: Meryl Davis and Charlie White (2012 US Ice Dancing Champions and 2012 World Silver Medalists), Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (2012 US Pairs Figure Skating Champions), Jeremy Abbott (2012 US Men’s Figure Skating Champion), Ashley Wagner (2012 US Women’s Figure Skating Champion), Alissa Czisny (2011 US Women’s Figure Skating Champion), Maia and Alex Shibutani (World Bronze Medalists), Adam Rippon, Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker, and Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue.

Donald Trump and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star and FSH board chair emerita Tamara Tunie served as honorary chairs.  Allison Schneiroy Fisch, partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Candace S. Matthews, chief marketing officer, Amway, and Teresa A. Teague, partner, Goldman Sachs, served as co-chairs.  Kimberly & Stephen Bollenbach and Terry & Tina Lundgren served as event chairs.

This year’s celebrity benefit committee included Lorraine Bracco, Gloria Gaynor, Rod Gilbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Carson Kressley, Christopher Meloni, Phylicia Rashad, Montel Williams, and many more.

An inaugural gala dinner celebrating 15 years of FSH was held at the famed Central Park Boathouse following the skating portion of the night.  (Photos courtesy Figure Skating in Harlem)

About Honoree Ross

The only child between singing legend, Diana Ross, and business-mogul, Berry Gordy, Harlem-based performing-artist, entrepreneur, inspirational-speaker, and mother, Rhonda Ross has somehow found the key to doing it all.  Born in LA and raised in Manhattan, Ross is no stranger to show business.

After graduating from Brown University with Honors, she mined her genetic DNA and followed her parents’ footsteps into the world of the performing arts.  She enjoyed much success as an actress: starring in several movies and traveling the country in The National Tour of the Vagina Monologues.

She received an Emmy Award nomination for her tour-de-force role on NBC’s Another World.  She also took the world-stage by storm, performing her uniquely titled ‘Song Telling’ concerts (an elegant blend of poetry and music) everywhere from Europe and Japan to New York’s Blue Note and even Radio City Music Hall.  In addition to bringing her music to world-wide audiences, Ross speaks to children and adults alike: inspiring them to their most worthy, self-loved, spiritual selves.

Because of a burgeoning passion for real estate investment, in 2005 Ross started a career in real estate and soon launched Ross Realty International: a globally connected oasis for sellers of prime New York City real estate to connect with eager and available buyers from around the world.

In 2009, Ross and her husband Rodney Kendrick welcomed their first child. Instinctively, knowing that babies love to learn, they have exposed their now 2 year old son to early reading in four languages.

They are humbled that, in addition to being the joyful, fun-loving boy he is, Raif speaks French, Spanish, Mandarin and English and, even at this early age, is actually able to read in each of the languages as well.

In late 2011, Ross ventured into another area that she is passionate about – healthy living.  She helped to create Wholesome, a website for the exploration of holistic lifestyles.  As it grows and develops, Wholesome will become a popular place to learn and share information about everything from acupuncture and herbs to meditation and diet.

The future holds many exciting ventures for Rhonda Ross.  Not only will Ross Realty International and Wholesome continue to expand globally, but Rhonda is actively creating a solo show, writing an inspirational memoir, and (based on her success with Raif) will soon launch a new educational program teaching multi-lingual, early reading to babies and toddlers.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j. bernard

Audrey J. Bernard