Two-year-old Ryan Shaffer sat on the ice in his new skates after falling down. Then ice skating instructor Karen Kay Lavris talked to him with loving encouragement and, after several tries, he got back up on his skates, made his way across the ice and gave Lavris a big hug.
"I love the children, I love every part of teaching them and seeing them smile," said Lavris. "It's magic. To see a little girl or a little boy get on the ice is a magical thing."
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Lavris, a 71-year-old grandmother from Mundelein, has been an ice skating instructor at the Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills since it opened 14 years ago.
At age four, Lavris' mother took her to a local Chicago playground ice rink to learn to skate.
"She put the ice skates on and shoved me on the ice and said, 'Let me know if you love it,'" remembers Lavris. "I went on the ice and I fell in love. It got it in my heart and from that moment on I skated."
Lavris began taking ice skating lessons at the Chicago Arena where she would get up early in the morning to skate before school.
After graduating from high school at 17, Lavris auditioned for the Ice Capades and she was selected to perform. She spent a year traveling around the country performing with the world-renowned company.
"It was an experience. The lights, the costumes, the make up, the people, the applause that you get, and the people waiting outside to get an autograph," explained Lavris. "I love show business more than anything else."
After the Ice Capades, she came back to Chicago where she taught ice skating at Marina City.
Lavris now lives in Mundelein where she has been married to Ted Lavris for over 50 years. They have four children Caron, Lana, Peter and Ted Jr., and seven grandchildren. None of the grandchildren have turned into figure skaters, but the boys developed into hockey players.
When Glacier Ice Arena opened in 1999, Lavris felt like she was the mother hen teaching children of all ages to learn to skate.
"Hockey and figure skating is all magic and love in your hearts," laughed Lavris as she watched toddlers skate around the rink. "And that is how I am living the way I am at 71. I am so happy and excited every single day that I step my foot on that ice."