When Michael Weiss was rising up the ranks as a young singles skater, money was not always easy to come by. His sister Geremi Marie was also a top skater — she would go on to win a U.S. junior title — and allowing them to follow their passions put a heavy financial burden on the Weiss family.
“My mom and dad worked very hard to help my sister and I, and it was really difficult for them,” Weiss recalled. “I thought that if I could even use my success to help somebody else, I was going to do it. I started thinking about that when I was really young.”
He launched the Michael Weiss Foundation in 2004, and over the past 10 years, it has raised $530,000 to provide financial support to young American skaters with Olympic dreams.
“Now I see younger kids coming up who are in difficulty like I was,” Weiss said. “I never want to see a kid with a ton of talent, with Olympic potential, be limited by financial resources.”
From the beginning, the foundation has used its annual fall ice show to raise money to provide for bursaries for young skaters.
On Sept. 14, the foundation’s Champions Live! show will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md.
Weiss is scheduled to skate along with Brian Boitano, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, Kimmie Meissner along with several up-and-coming young scholarship winners. Mirai Nagasu, Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon, past scholarship recipients who went on to be Olympians, will also take to the ice to give back to the foundation.
For his first show 10 years ago, Weiss called up some of his skating friends and got them together. “I said, ‘Let’s all get together for a weekend and stay at my house and we’ll skate and make as much money as we can for these skaters,’” Weiss explained. “And it’s still that way; we still stay at my house and order take-out, do a show…and now it’s the 10th anniversary.”
“We keep costs to a minimum. We have chairs donated by my son’s hockey team and restaurants donate the food,” the three-time national champion said. “I could spend money on lighting and a really great sound system, but that would be taking money away from the skaters’ scholarships. If someone spends $50 for a ticket, probably $49 of that is going to go to the skaters. Instead of great production values, you have great skaters performing in an intimate venue.”
“The show has a great mixture of skaters,” Weiss said. “You have people like Ashley Wagner, who are in their top competitive mode now, and then you have Brian Boitano who was in competitive mode 30 years ago. Now he’s an icon. You also have people who are recently retired, like Ryan Bradley. It makes for a great mix with the younger skaters.”
The 2014 scholarship winners include Richard Dornbush, Mirai Nagasu, Samantha Cesario, Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, 2014 junior ladies champion Amber Glenn, 2014 novice ice dance champions Luca and Gigi Becker, junior dance bronze medalists Michael Parsons and Rachel Parsons, junior ladies competitors Karen Chen and Amy Lin, novice men’s silver medalist Eric Sjoberg, juvenile girls bronze medalist Kaitlyn Nguyen and pairs skaters Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, and Ian Somerville and Olivia Oltmanns.
Weiss said he hopes to get as many of the scholarship winners on the ice as possible for the show, but “the last thing I want to do is pull them away from training.”
Two scholarship winners in particular stand out for Weiss — Nathan Chen, 15, the current junior World bronze medalist and Vincent Zhou, 13.
Zhou became the youngest national junior men’s champion in history when he claimed the title in 2013 at age 12.
“I have a heart for kids who are in the situation I was in, but these two are better than I was at that age,” Weiss said. “When I was growing up, you didn’t see people doing triple-triple combinations and triple Axels at age 14.”
“The first time I came to watch Nathan practice, I was with Brian Boitano and Jeffrey Buttle and we were just in awe,” Weiss recalled. “It wasn’t just the jumps, but the fact that this guy looked more confident when he was on the ice than he did when he was walking around in his shoes.
“It will be fun to see how they develop that talent and hopefully go on to win medals. The fact that they are capable of doing these jumps is crazy,” Weiss said. We worked out six hours a day back then too, but expectations are just so much higher than they were for my generation. We were told, ‘just go out and do your triple Axel-triple toe’, but these guys have to do it with footwork in and out.”
Weiss’s son Christopher, 14, has also found his place on the ice, playing elite teenage hockey. His daughter Annie-Mae, 15, is a singer.
Weiss said he is focused on working with the foundation, supporting his kids and working on a new business venture building custom homes in the Washington, D.C. area. He plans to move into one of his houses in November.
He does not plan to go back to touring — he said the 25th anniversary Stars On Ice tour in 2011 was his last — but he still spends plenty of time on the ice.
“I’ve been teaching power skating to young hockey players for awhile, because I kept seeing these great young athletes with little in the way of skating skills,” he explained. “I still get on the ice to skate and perform and I can still land a few triples here and there.”
Tickets for the Michael Weiss Foundation Ice Champions Live! 10th anniversary gala can be purchased via Eventbrite on the foundation’s website at MichaelWeiss.org. Ticket prices start at $35.
Subscribe to the IFS digital edition for US$15 per year. Click HERE to order your subscription.