DELAWARE, Ohio (June 26) — The annual Skate for Hope charity event presented by JEGS last Saturday at the Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus was more than a fundraiser for cancer research. It was a celebration of life.

While raising much-needed funding for the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University, the professional and amateur participants honored survivors of breast cancer and those currently undergoing cancer treatment with stunning performances. The evening was both emotional and uplifting, perfectly filling the vision of creator Carolyn Bongirno, whose personal battle with breast cancer inspired her to create Skate for Hope eight years ago.

“What a night,” said Di Coughlin, wife of JEGS Vice President John Coughlin. “I don’t know how but this event continues to exceed our expectations every year. 

“We celebrated the gift of health and life for the cancer survivors and gave hope to those who are currently battling this disease. It was something none of us will forget.”

Skate for Hope was a full evening of entertainment, with figure skaters of all ages joining Olympic and U.S. champions on the ice at Nationwide Arena.

“A lot of the skaters from the Greater Columbus area have been working on their routines for months and they all did wonderfully when the spotlights were on,” Coughlin said. “Each of them honored specific cancer survivors in the audience by presenting them with beautiful scarves and roses. It was a very emotional.”

Some of the professional headliners included Sarah Hughes and her sister, Emily, Johnny Weir, Rachael Flatt, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, Lexe Gilles, Emily Samuelson, Marcy and Lee Harris, Ryan Bradley, Joshua Farris, Caitlin Yankowska, Mary Beth Marley, and Rockne Brubaker.

All of the local skaters who participated earned their spot in the show by raising at least $400, although many exceeded that goal. The amateur skaters ranged from age 4 to 66.

“Raising donations taught the kids about philanthropy and how important it is to do something for those that may be going through a tough time,” Coughlin said. “It also made them feel good by doing something they love and helping others at the same time.”

One of the local skaters was Kennedi Coughlin, the 10-year-old daughter of John and Di Coughlin. Kennedi worked for more than four months on her routine and nailed it in front of a rink-side audience of Olympic and U.S. champion skaters. She then skated with Brubaker in a touching duet.

“Kennedi loves to skate, so she was in heaven,” Di Coughlin said. “She got to skate with all the headliners, including Rockne. She was especially looking forward to that as she skated with him in the past. It was really cute. He makes her feel so special.”

Kennedi also rode in the NHRA Pro Stock car that rolled on to the ice during the show. “She was inside the racecar and then John, Lee, and Rockne pulled her out and skated with her,” Coughlin said. “Rockne even used her in a lift that went into an overhead spin. The whole thing was topped off with Kennedi being presented with a trophy from Caydee, Marcy, and Mary Beth. It was an amazing number.”

Many skaters honored their own family members who were cancer survivors during the event. In one touching moment, everyone in the arena raised pink glowsticks as the lights were dimmed in honor of cancer survivors all over the world.

“The Olympic skaters did such a great job, and the local skaters were just phenomenal,” Coughlin said. “Everything went off without a hitch. It was really special.”

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