By Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
When the coronavirus pandemic began to alter everyone’s way of life, Kaitlyn Weaver said she had a hard time just sitting still in her New York City apartment and watching everything happen around her. The two-time Olympian and three-time World medalist ice dancer for Canada knew she wanted to do something to the contribute to the efforts. So after being moved by a live benefit show hosted by Rosie O’Donnell that featured many of the biggest names in entertainment, Weaver started to contemplate a similar effort involving the figure skating community.
“We’ve got a great skating community that is worldwide,” Weaver, 31, told Figure Skaters Online by phone on April 22. “I reached out to a few friends just to bounce some ideas off of and to see if people would want to do this and the answer was a resounding yes.”
One of those friends that Weaver pitched her idea to was longtime friend and former training mate, Jordan Cowan of On Ice Perspectives.
“I just knew that he would be the perfect partner in this,” Weaver described of Cowan. “He’s so smart and so able to put things together and make them look beautiful, while always having the best interest of the skater at heart. And I think that’s very unique. So I pitched him my idea and he came back a few days later and said, ‘Okay, let’s do this.'”
And with that, Weaver and Cowan started tirelessly working on planning a live benefit show for the skating community. The first week, Weaver said, consisted of just reaching out to people on how they could do this. Two of those people were Canadian Olympic ice dancer and choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne and her husband, Bohdan Turok. The name “Open Ice,” was created by Bourne, Weaver said.
“I was speaking with her and her husband, who is an artist, screenwriter, videographer, cinematographer and I was just bouncing ideas off of them. We described what we wanted to do, what I wanted it to feel like. We had a few different [name] options and Open Ice right away caught everybody’s attention. Shae-Lynn is a genius in every way and I’m so appreciative of her contributions to this,” Weaver remarked.
With growing support for the idea and a team to assist her, Weaver started pinning down the details for the fundraiser.
The Open Ice live show begins April 25 at 2 p.m. EST. Weaver said she was originally considering a primetime show for North America, but decided to adjust the time, not only for international fans, but for the skaters who would be participating from various places around the world.
“It was important that it was comfortable and convenient for everyone involved,” she said.
Currently, more than 60 skaters are scheduled to participate from the comforts of their homes. The list includes skating legends such as Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Brian Orser and Kurt Browning, along with current skating stars like Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, Nathan Chen and Satoko Miyahara.
When it came to the guest list, Weaver just started calling her fellow skaters to ask if they were interested in appearing in the show. She said then those skaters started making their own calls and the word started spreading.
“I never thought that everybody that I asked would say yes. I never dreamed that would happen,” Weaver shared, admitting that she actually had to start slowing down the process of reaching out to people due to the growing guest list. “I’m very grateful that the response has been so positive from the skaters and I hope that the message is conveyed that we want to come together to help as a group.”
Without giving too much away, Weaver said Open Ice will be a live variety show featuring games, interviews and impromptu performances.
“It’s going to be real, raw, emotional and entertaining,” Weaver shared.
The show will benefit the United Nations COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization. Weaver said it was important to her to choose an international organization since Open Ice is a global initiative.
“The World Health Organization is doing everything. They are providing PPE [personal protective equipment]. They are fighting this disease systemically within the country so people have access to testing and so low income communities are getting the right things that they need,” Weaver explained, adding that a representative from the UN Foundation will be on the show to give the facts of what the charity is doing and what a gift, like $20, can do. “It was important for me to have that support from them and they’ve been incredible with supporting this initiative.”
Open Ice Live has already raised more than $2,000 of its $15,000 goal, which Weaver said she didn’t expect people would start donating in advance of the show. With the early response, Weaver said they may consider increasing their goal.
“We believe in our community and I think we really can do something great,” she said. “If you give athletes and a sports community a goal, people want to reach it, you know.”
As an athlete, Weaver has never planned such a big event and acknowledges that she learned a lot about the power of community and reaching out for help. With just a few days to go before the event, Weaver admits she’s a bit nervous, but is really excited for the show.
“I am really looking forward to seeing the magic that happens when you bring everybody together in one place live,” she exclaimed.
Ways to watch Open Ice Live on April 25:
At Open Ice Live: https://openicelive.com/
ISU Skating YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/SkatingISU
On Ice Perspectives YouTube page: https://youtu.be/dCvSzPqj_Wo
On Open Ice Live’s Donation page: https://tiltify.com/@oniceperspectives/openice
For more on Open Ice Live, visit https://openicelive.com/ and to donate to United Nations COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, visit https://tiltify.com/@oniceperspectives/openice