The young skaters picking up flowers and stuffed animals after each competitor finishes a routine are called ice sweepers.

Organizers of the world championships in Washington held an audition for skaters from the Washington area at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in August. All 69 youngsters (ages 9 to 13) who auditioned were selected and will do their part at the worlds.

Organizers and security personnel will try to minimize the potential projectiles. Security will be tight and all bags will be checked upon entry. Fans are not allowed to bring flowers and other items from outside the arena to throw onto the ice because they are difficult to remove and can result in injuries to skaters. If you need to toss something, small items will be available for sale from arena vendors, such as small stuffed toys.

So what happens to all the loot the sweepers pick up? Some skaters keep the stuffed animals, because occasionally fans will write messages to their favorite skaters and attach them to the toys. They also donate many of the items to children's hospitals. Organizers of the worlds plan to donate items to area homeless shelters, day-care facilities in low income areas and nursing homes. The plan is to have some of the ice sweepers help distribute the toys to those places.

-- Amy Rosewater

A young ice sweeper collects kudos thrown onto the ice at U.S. championships in January.