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“Fundraising is instrumental:” Wisconsin synchronized skating team needs your help paying for competitions

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It takes passion to drive athletes to the top of their game. For a group of synchronized skaters, that passion has led them to some of the top competitions in the country.

"I was never really athletic in high school at all," Jan Seybold said.

Seybold now glides across the ice at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, it is hard to imagine she wasn't always an athlete.

"I was kind of clumsy and never really had that team experience," Seybold said.

That all changed after she had kids and signed her daughter up for skating lessons. Her daughter wasn't too into the lessons at first.

"I thought, 'well I'm signing myself up,' you know, because I liked it. And I'd bring her and eventually got to the point where I got her to go through one lesson and she loved it. So we started taking lessons together," Seybold said.

About 20 years later, the two are still skating together, along with about a dozen other people on a synchronized skating team.

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"At the upper levels, there's incredible speed, grace and quite difficult choreography, where you see line formations. You see intersections where there's speed and there's daring and you see lifts. And it's actually quite beautiful. I like to think of it as even the Rockettes," Seybold said.

While the Rockettes are world famous, synchronized skating is slowly growing in popularity.

"There's a big push right now to try to turn it into an Olympic sport. The United States Figure Skating Association is really trying to campaign to the International Olympic Committee to bring it on. It's a fabulous sport," Seybold said.

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Their team, the Wisconsin Edge Masters Team has enjoyed success recently.

"Two years ago when we competed at Nationals, it was in Colorado Springs and we were like 'oh my God! We actually qualified to go to nationals.' It was our first time," Seybold said.

"It's a little nerve-racking. But it's also a lot of fun traveling with this group of women and men, sharing that experience on the road, telling old skating stories of when we were kids," Nicole Gram-Herzog said.

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But as fun as that might be, Gram-Herzog and the others know it's not easy to pay for the competitions.

"Fundraising is instrumental because we're travelling across the country, and sometimes funding for skating is not always readily available," Gram-Herzog said.

"We did bake sales and you know, that'll earn you a couple hundred dollars if you're lucky," Seybold said.

So Seybold looked past the traditional fundraising techniques and looked to technology to help. She set up an account at GoFundMe.com.

"The first time that we did it, with having a number of skaters share it on their Facebook page and then having other people share it as well, it was really surprising. I mean, we earned, our first time, $3000 in just a couple of weeks," Seybold said. "I think maybe our enthusiasm came through, even though it was just words on paper. But photos and I think people connected in with what we were doing because you can share your story."

They're hoping their story continues for many years to come, with trips to nationals and other perks along the way.

"You work hard together. You have goals together. And it's something fun to work toward and you get a team jacket. I never had one of those, so that was kind of fun," Seybold said.

This year, nationals were held in Providence, Rhode Island, but Seybold and her team were unable to afford the trip.

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