Skaters to host cancer benefit at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex

vmannix@bradenton.comOctober 9, 2013 


Their names are Janeece Owen, Susan Evans and Linda Spinale.

When Tropical Spice on Ice performs Oct. 26 at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, those three women will be in the hearts and minds of their former colleagues on the adult synchronized ice skating team.

"They still skate with us," coach Kelli Paige said.

Each died from breast cancer.

Owen, 45, in 1996.

Evans, 60, in 2009.

Spinale, 70, in 2012.

Their passing resonates during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Just ask Marilyn Pagni, a breast cancer survivor.

"It was very difficult to lose a team member, someone you've been skating with a long time," the 74-year-old Ellenton resident said. "So this means a great deal."

It is the fourth such show for Tropical Spice on Ice and will benefit the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Breast Health Center. Other younger skaters will perform, too, as will singer Maria Wirries.

"You could go door to door or sit in front of the supermarket collecting for cancer research," said Gulfport's Lynne Winderbaum, 64. "But this lets you put your skating effort towards this cause. That makes it a little bit different and more


Especially for her.

Winderbaum's father died from cancer.

So did Donna Euston's father.

"This is important to me," said the 55-year-old Lakewood Ranch resident. "It affects everybody."

Tropical Spice on Ice is no different.

Like Owen and Evans before her, Spinale fought bravely during an ordeal that was wrenching for all.

"You become a part of their battle, the highs, the lows, the good reports and the not-good reports," Paige said. "It's affected all of us so much. We're kind of like a family. You just never know who it's going to happen to."

The troupe is in its 21st year and practices weekly in Ellenton with some members skating on their own, too. They skate year round and have competed in adult nationals at places such as Las Vegas and San Francisco.

A skater for 44 years, Paige has been its coach from the start and enjoys the process of melding the troupe's various talents.

"Skating is not easy," the 59-year-old Sarasota resident said. "We understand we don't have the potential to be a high-level competitive skating team, but it's their sport, their recreational activity. We work with the skill level we have, but they're a great group with great camaraderie. Some are very good skaters, some still struggle with basics, but everybody helps."

Especially when they're skating in formations, doing circles and shoulder holds and lines.

"For most adults, they never thought they'd ever be figure skating, let alone wearing tights and tight sparkly dresses and hair extensions and going out to perform," Paige said. "What they do is just as important as a higher level team."

Particularly Oct. 26.

Approximately 39,620 women in the United States were expected to die this year from breast cancer, according to the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. But death rates have declined since 1989 and earlier detection is one reason why.

Pagni, who was diagnosed in 1995, will vouch for it.

"It's the only way I found out I had it and it was early enough to save me," she said. "Mammograms are the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against breast cancer."

Spreading the word is part of the mission for Tropical Spice on Ice at its upcoming show.

Sarasota's Judy Powell embraces that message.

"I've never had cancer, but at 71 I've known too many who have and died from it," she said. "I'm blessed to be part of a group that stands for something. This is a way of getting people to know we are representing a cause, and we're trying to raise everybody's awareness. Cancer affects everyone."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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