An Evening with Scott Hamilton and Friends

By Terri Tarquini




December 1, 2016
30
   In The Loop Extended Articles

Scott Hamilton fights like an Olympian.

It takes a certain level of dedication and work ethic to make it to the highest levels of one’s sport, much less to stand atop the podium. In the history of the 50 Olympic Games the United States has competed, there have been 1,118 total gold medals earned by Americans, in both winter and summer Games and across all sports.

In 1984, Scott Hamilton became one of those who worked and won when he skated to gold medal glory in Sarajevo as the world watched.

Now he works to win on behalf of cancer patients, caregivers and survivors around the world through his Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.

“Passion, compassion, hope, determination,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Liz Lindecke, manager of “An Evening with Scott Hamilton and Friends” gala and ice show. “If you’ve ever heard Scott speak, you get such a sense that everything is going to be okay. He is absolutely inspirational and he makes you believe. He is dedicated to the cause of eradicating cancer in his lifetime.”

In everyday practice, what he is affecting is so much more than that.

The numbers are staggering: Since partnering with the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute in 1999, Hamilton has raised over $17 million for cancer awareness, education, research, and support.

Now in its 17th year, the 2016 gala took place at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown to about 600 people with the ice show at the Quicken Loans Arena to an audience of 4,500 on November 5. Hosted by Hamilton, the show featured Grammy Award-winning singer Michael McDonald and performances by Katia Gordeeva, Ilia Kulik, Jeff Buttle, Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown, Alissa Czisny, Kiira Korpi, Mirai Nagasu, Steven Cousins, Sinead Kerr-Marshall and John Kerr, and Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre.

A second performance took place on November 20 in Nashville. Host Hamilton was joined by guest host Kristi Yamaguchi and musical talents Sheryl Crow, Ben Rector, Jewel, Rodney Crowell, and Sara Evans. Taking the ice for the cause were Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Brian Boitano, Ryan Bradley, Javier Fernández, Gordeeva, Buttle, Abbott, Czisny, Cousins, Korpi, Navarro and Bommentre, and the Kerrs.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all those affected with cancer,” Lindecke said. “It would be one thing to say that, without these programs, it would make life with cancer more difficult, but, in reality, it would make the journey much worse that that - it would be intolerable.”

Hamilton’s own life has been a recurring battle with the disease. Having lost his mother to breast cancer in 1977, Hamilton was originally diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997. He revealed recently that he has been diagnosed with his third benign brain tumor earlier this year after two previous brain tumors in 2004 and 2010. The tumor was discovered during a routine check-up and he is researching his treatment options before symptoms begin presenting.

It’s a battle he has been uniquely groomed to attack as he will likely tap into the same internal fortitude that drove him to Olympic gold.

“The first thing I teach skaters at my skating academy is how to get up - because we’re going to fall,” Hamilton said to People magazine in October. “And that’s how I live my life: I’m going to fall down; I’m going to make mistakes… But it’s what’s next - it’s how you get up. The more times you get up, the stronger you are to face the next thing, which will happen, because that’s life.”

Along with the strength, however, Hamilton also has a gift of bringing a hefty dose of contagious optimism to the fight.
“As is always the case with Scott Hamilton, even with his most recent diagnosis, it is always about celebrating life,” said Lindecke of the Cleveland gala. “So we dined and we danced. He has a powerful message: if you’re going through any adversity - no matter what it is - there’s always hope. Always.”

The millions raised support three major programs, the first of which is the 4th Angel Mentoring Program, designed to match newly diagnosed patients with trained volunteers who are also cancer survivors, as well as matching new caregivers with a mentor. Currently the program makes 150 matches per month, and includes more than 850 trained patient and caregiver mentors who have survived cancer and want to help those with their journey.

“The 4th Angel Mentoring Program came from Scott saying he had three angels in his fight,” Lindecke said. “He had his oncologist, he had his nurse and he had his family and friends. What he didn’t have was a fourth angel - someone who had gone through it. He wanted to make it possible for patients and caregivers to be able to speak to someone who had walked in their shoes.”

The second program supported is Chemocare.com, a website designed to help patients better understand the chemotherapy experience that has over two million hits per month.

“When Scott was going through chemo, he was really sick and so much of the literature was difficult to understand,” Lindecke said. “Chemocare.com is written at an eighth grade level so information is accessible to anyone. When people hear a diagnosis of ‘cancer,’ they stop listening. Chemocare.com gives them the ability to take control and educate themselves and learn what’s going on and know what to expect. It’s very empowering for those who don’t feel they have a lot of control.”

Cancer research is the third area Hamilton’s efforts are focused, with monies raised currently funding 53 projects.

“I take my mother with me wherever I go,” Hamilton said in his People magazine interview. “I lost her almost 40 years ago, and she’s with me all the time. Yes, I mourn her, but I mourn her in a way that I’m inspired to make a difference so the next 18-year-old kid doesn’t have to feel that devastation of losing their mother. And that’s what keeps me going.”

Those interested in making a donation or learning more information about the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation can visit scottcares.org.