Figure skating community to hold fundraiser in Algonquin preschooler's memory

  • Mason Wasz, the preschool son of a coach and former figure skater from Algonquin, died in early 2017 at the age of 3 after contracting a rare viral infection.

    Mason Wasz, the preschool son of a coach and former figure skater from Algonquin, died in early 2017 at the age of 3 after contracting a rare viral infection. Courtesy of Mason Wasz Foundation

  • Two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu, who became the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympic Games in 2018, will be one of the featured performers at the "Skate for Mason" benefit show for the Mason Wasz Foundation on Sunday, March 17.

    Two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu, who became the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympic Games in 2018, will be one of the featured performers at the "Skate for Mason" benefit show for the Mason Wasz Foundation on Sunday, March 17. Courtesy of Mason Wasz Foundation

  • Three-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner will perform at the "Skate for Mason" show on Sunday, March 17. The Mason Wasz Foundation contributes to local charitable efforts in memory of Mason Wasz of Algonquin, who died in 2017 at the age of 3½.

    Three-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner will perform at the "Skate for Mason" show on Sunday, March 17. The Mason Wasz Foundation contributes to local charitable efforts in memory of Mason Wasz of Algonquin, who died in 2017 at the age of 3½. Courtesy of Mason Wasz Foundation

  • The figure skating community, including Team USA member Sean Rabbitt, will come together to perform in "Skate for Mason" on Sunday, March 17.

    The figure skating community, including Team USA member Sean Rabbitt, will come together to perform in "Skate for Mason" on Sunday, March 17. Courtesy of Mason Wasz Foundation

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

The figure skating community is a tight one, so when the preschool son of a coach and former figure skater passed away suddenly, the community pulled together.

"Skate for Mason" is the first benefit ice show sponsored by the Mason Wasz Foundation, which is based in Crystal Lake. It takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva.

Mason's mother, Melissa Gade Wasz of Algonquin, is a former figure skater who now coaches aspiring figure skaters and even some hockey players. Her son, Mason, died on Feb. 1, 2017, from a rare viral infection after a short, six-day battle. He was 3.

In their grief, Wasz, her husband, Mike, and older son, Max, started the Mason Wasz Foundation in their son's memory. Their goal was to advance his helpful spirit by contributing to philanthropic efforts in the community.

So far, an annual golf outing has been their major fundraiser. Volunteers have made nearly 1,000 fleece blankets that have been donated to local hospitals, and the foundation purchased a cuddle cot for Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, which enables families to spend more time with their babies that have passed away.

Proceeds from the skating show are earmarked to support pet therapy programs at local hospitals, Wasz says.

"Skating showcase opportunities have become limited," says Kerry Murphy of Glen Ellyn, former president of the Greater Chicagoland Skate USA Committee, which is the local branch of the U.S. Figure Skating Association and oversees 22 rinks in the region.

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"Mostly, fans see skaters in competition or in Stars on Ice," she adds, "so it's rare to see this type of caliber, locally."

The benefit show features some of the biggest names in the sport right now, including Mirai Nagasu, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Olympics and the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition, as well as Ashley Wagner, a bronze medalist at the 2014 Olympics and a silver medalist at 2016 World Championships.

The show also will feature Sean Rabbitt, 2019 U.S. National Men's Senior Competitor and Team USA member, and Disney On Ice star and Algonquin native Kyle Shropshire.

A pair of award-winning synchronized skating teams also will perform, including Teams Elite, based in Northbrook, and the Chicago Jazz, based in Rolling Meadows. Both teams just returned from competing in the 2019 Spring Cup in Milan, Italy. Fans also will watch members of the Ice Theatre Inspirations Team, which is a special needs team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If those stars weren't enough, the master of ceremonies is former Chicago Blackhawks star and current WGN radio analyst Troy Murray. An autograph session, when fans can meet with the stars, will take place after the show.

Local figure skating coaches are serving on the organizing committee, including Gretchen Cabanban Hamilton, Gade-Wasz and Murphy. Rockne Brubaker, a two-time national champion in pairs skating, serves as skating director at the Fox Valley Ice Arena.

"These skaters are asked all the time to perform for different causes," Murphy adds, "but this was a cause they felt they could contribute to. We feel honored to have them."

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