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Student organizes skating show to benefit typhoon victims

For Friends School junior Aubrey Akers, the Philippines is like a homeland away from home.

Although she was born in the U.S., Akers' mother, Mary Anne, and extended family are from the Philippines. When Akers' grandfather, Joseph Alabanza comes to stay for six months out of the year, "he kind of brings that culture with him," she said.

Akers visited the Philippines with her mother just last year and knows all the Filipino dances. When she gets sick, her mother makes her a Philippines ginger soup, she said.

That's why the Homeland teen is as sad as her family is for the victims of a typhoon Nov. 8 that killed at least 5,200 people and left thousands more injured or missing in the Philippines. Although her own family members live in Baguio, in the northern part of the country, and were not hit at all, Akers and her mother said they are no strangers to Mother Nature wreaking havoc in that area

Now, Akers is doing something to help this month's victims. The avid figure skater is organizing a benefit show of at least 12 soloists at the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena on Nov. 29 and is choreographing her own solo routine in the show, which is set to the Beyonce song, "I Was Here."

She has convinced other skaters to perform with her and is inviting people from her school and the Baltimore Figure Skating Club, of which she is a member, to come to the show and make donations to aid typhoon victims.

Before the typhoon, Akers was already working with am orphanage in the Philippines and was originally going to organize the show to benefit the orphanage.

"But then, when (the typhoon) happened, I thought, 'Why not do a show for this?'" she said. "That's my own personal way that I can help that I thought would be creative."

"I think it shows really what her heart is," said Mary Anne Akers, 54, who moved to the U.S. in 1985 and is dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University. "She's very generous and caring and very attached to her Filipino heritage. When she looked at the photos of the damage and the suffering, she felt she had to contribute something.

With financial aid already pouring into the Philippines to help victims with their immediate medical and housing needs, Aubrey Akers is looking ahead, and is planning to earmark the money she raises for rebuilding efforts, said Mary Anne Akers, an urban planner by training. That decision came from "lessons learned" after disaster including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in southeast Asia, she said.

They plan to send the money raised to the Center for Transformational Communities, which is based in the Philippines and has a micro-enterprise development program, Mary Ann Akers said.

"To rebuild their lives, they would have to rebuild their livelihoods," she said.

Mary Anne Akers said her own heart goes out to Filipinos.

"Of course, it pains me that my people are suffering," she said. "But I know the people are very resilient as well. We have gone through so many disasters."

Aubrey Akers said she had hoped to give the show more of a Filipino theme, but is organizing it hastily. She's uncertain how many people will come, since the show is scheduled the day after Thanksgiving. Mount Pleasant Ice Arena is donating two hours of ice time for the 90-minute show, which otherwise would cost $360 for two hours, she said.

Other performers in the upcoming show, most of them members of a performing troupe of friends and fellow skaters that does holiday and springtime shows, said they are glad to help.

"It was really short notice, but it's definitely something I wanted to do," said Chloe Roberts, of Towson, a freshman at Notre Dame Preparatory School, who will perform Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway."

"It's definitely for a good cause," Roberts said.

It's not the first show of its type they've done.

"We did something for Haiti a couple of years ago," Roberts said.

"It's going to be really fun to show off our skills, and it's kind of good to help (Aubrey Akers) out," said Olivia Watkins, of Rodgers Forge, a ninth grader at Towson High School.

Akers is also scrambling to get the word out about the show.

"We're inviting everyone," she said. "We're posting it on Facebook. I've had some (Friends School) students come up to me and say it sounds interesting and they'll try to be there."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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