Olympic Champion Kristi Yamaguchi made a special appearance at Downtown Burbank’s The Rink midday yesterday, December 4. About 100 children from Miller and Emerson elementary schools in grades 2, 4 and 5 attended the event. Because her flight was a late in arriving, Ms. Yamaguchi did some interviews first and then skated with the children. After skating for a time, everyone took a break and she read from her children’s book Dream Big, Little Pig! and talked with the kids. Ms. Yamaguchi then joined the youngsters on the ice for another skate session.
Ms. Yamaguchi shared with the children that by working hard and never giving up she was able to accomplish her goals and that she also trained for ice skating by taking dance lessons. Ms. Yamaguchi talked about how she worked with her skating partner for the Olympics and the ways she collaborated with an illustrator on her books. She also mentioned that her own children inspired her to write her books for children, including It’s A Big World, Little Pig!, published last year.
“Most of the kids had never ice skated before. They were all smiles the entire time!” commented Peggy Flynn, BUSD Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator. “Miller and Emerson were invited because they were within walking distance. So many wanted to attend that we had to have the principals draw teacher names from a hat. It was a perfect example of how the arts and athletics are not exclusive unto themselves.”
In the weeks leading up to her visit, Mr. Berger’s fifth graders from Emerson watched her Olympic Gold Medal routine in 1992 and read about Ms. Yamaguchi’s life. The Olympic Gold Medalist in Women’s Figure Skating and two-time World Champion signed books from the Miller and Emerson libraries detailing her life and accomplishments.
Panera Bread provided lunch and cookies for all of the students. Each student attending also received an autographed photo of Ms. Yamaguchi. Several news outlets including Channel 4 NBC, The L.A. Times and a Chinese television station also covered the event.
Ms. Yamaguchi’s visit was presented in partnership with Burbank Arts For All Foundation and the BUSD Arts For All program. BAFA supports arts integration programs within the Burbank school district. The Downtown Burbank Partnership and Ice America provided free skate admission for the children from Miller and Emerson elementary schools. Ms. Yamaguchi founded the Always Dream Foundation in 1996 with a mission to aid early childhood literacy and inspire children to reach for their dreams through innovative reading programs.
The Rink in Downtown Burbank is located next to City Hall at the corner of Third and Orange Grove Avenues. The Rink is open daily through January 5, with a variety of open skate sessions.