If you met Elise Freezer, you'd want to put her on TV, too.
The seriously adorable and immensely talented 11-year-old figure skater is the star of a SunTrust Bank commercial that will be broadcast to a national audience starting with Friday's 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.
In the 60-second spot promoting SunTrust's "Saving for Your Dreams" campaign on its onUp.com site, which features free budget tools and quizzes, the Colorado Springs athlete is portrayed as a skater employed to pick up flowers and gifts left on the ice for Olympic skaters after their programs. But Elise gets put in the spotlight by "accident" while retrieving a teddy bear. She makes the most of it by dancing and skating with the bear to "What a Feeling," the theme from "Flashdance" by Irene Cara. The message is, "It takes confidence to dream big."
Elise said her coaches encouraged her to try out for the commercial.
The bank "wanted someone who was 12 to 16, but they changed it after I auditioned," said the apple-cheeked strawberry blonde.
Elise got to keep a bear, which she has named Sunny, as well as her handmade costume from the daylong photo shoot at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
"It was the greatest experience of my life so far," Elise said. "It was so much fun."
Her favorite part of the commercial was "when I catch the teddy bear. They had to drop it from a ladder and then Photoshop the ladder out of the scene."
Otherwise, the highlight of the seven-hour shoot was "the food."
"I could get any breakfast I wanted. There was a chef there who would make anything for you," Elise said, smiling widely. "And later, there was this huge dinner buffet right in the arena. Also, I got Starbucks every day, including tryouts."
"This commercial was just one of those God-given opportunities, because everything just fell into place," Jennifer Freezer said. "The reason why we are doing this with onUp is to be able to help the parents of athletes who are coming up."
She said as the mother of an athlete, she could relate to the information on the onUp site (onupmovement.suntrust.com).
"There's a lot of advice on how to help families of athletes with spending, budgeting and how to look forward to what your cost is going to be," she said. "We've been playing around on it since the commercial. And what's nice is, it doesn't link back to SunTrust. This is free, for anyone."
The Freezers sold their Denver home and moved to a small apartment in Colorado Springs in 2012 when Elise's coaches suggested she would benefit from a higher level of training available here. Matt and Jennifer Freezer were Ph.D. candidates in engineering at the time.
Elise went from taking weekly skating lessons to daily training and competitive travel, and it took a lot to pay for that change. They became a one-car family. Matt took a second job, working at an engineering firm by day and teaching at a university in the evenings.
"We were not prepared for the costs of training," Jennifer said. "But when it's your kid and you see her so happy and so in love with skating, you make sacrifices."
Since moving to Colorado Springs, the Freezers both earned their Ph.D.s and opened their own engineering firm. Jennifer now can travel with Elise for training in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, "a quick two-hour flight," she said. She'll take her daughter to Canada for an afternoon of coaching and pull out her laptop and work remotely.
Elise, a seventh-grader, goes to school online and can do her studies wherever is convenient. She dreams of competing in the Olympics and of attending Princeton University, possibly to become an anesthesiologist.
While the family's financial situation has improved, "you never forget the struggles," Jennifer said.
Elise was born with Osteochondritis Dissecans, a joint disorder, in both knees. Nevertheless, she took to the ice at age 5. When she was 8, the pain landed her in surgery, and she had to use a wheelchair for eight months. Yet she came back from that to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last year, taking a pewter medal in the juvenile category.
She broke a knee while training last September and had to take an eight-week hiatus to recover.
Physical therapy worked its magic, and today the athlete routinely lands triple jumps, and her favorite move is the graceful layback spin.
In her spare time, Elise helps to teach "little, little, little" skaters on the ice at the Cadet Ice Arena at the Air Force Academy.
"We are happy to be able to give back," Jennifer Freezer said. "The Air Force is starting a figure skating club here, and we were able to help out some to get that going."