Skate America commentators visit Valley Med's Children's Therapy in Renton

RentonReporter_FigureSkaters_Oct2012Some kids at Valley Medical Center's Children's Therapy got a treat Friday morning, when they were visited by two U.S. figure skaters.

Tanith Belbin and Tonia Kwiatkowski shared their skating experiences, discussed hobbies and even played basketball with the young patients.

Belbin makes up one half of the successful U.S. ice-dancing team of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. The two won five U.S. championships, four World medals and the 2006 Olympic silver medal. Belbin retired in 2010.

Kwiatkowski is a figure-skating coach, after having a successful skating career on the U.S. National and international teams. She competed from 1986 to 1998, winning many accolades, including second place at the 2005 World Championships.

The two are in town for the Skate America event this weekend at ShoWare Center in Kent. The event is the first in six competitions of the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, conducted in the U.S., Canada, France, Japan, China and Russia.

Belbin and Kwiatkowski will provide commentary and interviews for icenetwork.com.

"I think it's always been important to give back to the community because we've experienced so many great things through skating," said Kwiatkowski.

She remarked on how touched she was by the Children's Therapy mission to help children, saying she has a daughter who is healthy, but their work is great.

Some of the therapy patients didn't know quite what to do when presented with the star skaters. Some weren't even born when the two competed. But they appeared fascinated by what the two had to relate about figure skating.

The center sees children for occupational, speech and physical therapy. Last year more than 1,300 children came in for services to Valley's Children's Therapy. There are about 30 therapists there, as well as a dietician and nurses.

Belbin and Kwiatkowski greeted patients in the Rain Forest Room, one of several themed rooms at the center.

Ninety percent of the children are outpatient clients and the rest come primarily from the intensive care unit and are treated at the hospital.

Belbin discussed race cars, ice skating, school and therapy with 5-year-old Kamryn.

Belbin hasn't been to this part of the state before, although her skate partner is from Olympia.

"I'm getting familiar with the area and they're (the community) always fantastic hosts and really, really enthusiastic, knowledgeable skating fans," she said.

Photo caption: Retired U.S. figure skater Tanith Belbin tries her hand at basketball with help from Christian, 8, a patient of Valley Medical Center's Children's Therapy. In the background is skater Tonia Kwiatkowski.

Photo credit: Tracey Compton, Tukwila Reporter