By Joanne Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating
The event has been a labor of love for the past 10 years, but in a little over a year, this special show will come to an end. The Celebration of Sisters, honoring two young women who lost their lives at a very young age, will celebrate its grand finale with a show produced by their only living sister, proud to honor their memory all these years.
"For more than 20 years, the Lipson family has partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital to support its mission to provide compassionate lifesaving patient care while advancing innovative medical research and caregiver education," said Celebration of Sisters founder Judy Lipson.
Lipson, an adult skater from Boston began the Celebration of Sisters ice show gala in November 2011 to honor her beloved sisters Jane and Margie. Tragically Lipson lost both sisters, Jane to an automobile accident and Margie after a long battle with an eating disorder.
"Today, the Lipson family's philanthropy continues through its support of Mass General's Eating Disorder Clinical and Research program who provides the highest quality patient care, clinical research, professional training and public education about eating disorders," Lipson said.
Celebrating her sisters' memory with a skating event was only fitting.
"My sisters Margie and Jane were both beautiful, gregarious girls with gorgeous smiles. What would be the best way to honor them? Ice skating is a sport we all shared as girls, dressed up in our skating dresses, proudly carrying our Riedell skates in our bag. Skating brings us all together, full circle back to a sport we all shared and loved. I'm sure they are laughing seeing their shy middle sister out there performing in front of a large audience wearing a short glitzy dress," Lipson said.
The first performance 10 years ago featured just 10 skaters in a rink with one set of bleachers. The show since outgrew the small rink.
"A supportive crowd of 50," Lipson said. "My first performance with my dance coach, I skated to Whitney Houston's ‘I Will Always Love You,’ and as I jumped upon his knees, my arms in the air, a moment I will never forget, the start of the tribute to Margie and Jane. I will always love you."
For the past decade, Celebration of Sisters has grown from 10 skaters to 75, attracted an audience of 50 to close to 200 and raised over $60,000.00 to benefit Mass General Hospital Primary Care and Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program.
The show created so many memorable moments that Lipson couldn't list them all. However, many special memories come to mind.
"Seventy-five skaters open with ‘Over the Rainbow’ the lovely rendition by EZ, with a gorgeous sea of color flowing around the rink," Lipson said. "There is a magic to the entire day. I am not able to articulate into word the feelings. I look out at the arena filled with people who are here to share Celebration of Sisters. The applause as I join the talented and aspiring skaters of all ages, levels, disciplines and challenges, echoing the love, warmth and support of my sisters, is utterly overwhelming."
The final show was postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19. Lipson also chose to close the chapter on her beloved show for another reason. In March of 2018, while practicing a spin, Lipson took a bad fall, suffered a concussion and required eight stitches near her eye. The injury kept her off the ice for three months.
"At age 62, the doctors wanted me to give up the sport I loved," Lipson said. "My comeback was slow, required patience and there were numerous setbacks. However, with the love and support of my family, coach and skating community, I got up and performed in November 2018."
The event has been a labor of love and had an incredible run.
"I will be 65. Both my daughters are married. I'm a grandmother now. My life is full, and it seemed like a good time to end this journey. Ice skating brought me full circle to honor my sisters. It provided me a venue to heal, positively channel my grief and introduced me to a community for which I will be forever grateful."
Lipson is forever grateful for the donors, skaters and coaches who generously supported this event for the past decade.
"If hearing my story, another sibling who lost a sibling does not feel so alone, we've done good," Lipson said. "If attending, a skater gets up, we've done good. If attending, an individual learns about advocating for healthcare, we've done good. If someone with an eating disorder or knows someone with an eating disorder seeks help, we've done good. If we have brought joy, we've done good."
The Celebration of Sisters grand finale will take place at the Babson Skating Center in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, at 4 p.m.
To follow the event throughout the coming year, visit because.massgeneral.org/celebrationofsisters.