08 Jul 2016
Kate Anderson was the US Young Ambassador for the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games. Earlier this year, she successfully applied for a YA+ Gold grant to support a project close to her heart, and this is her story.
Taking the YOG spirit of learning and sharing to another level, a group of Youth Olympians, as well as other U.S. national team members from skiing and snowboarding, recently travelled to Tijuana, Mexico, to build a home for a family in need with non-profit organisation Hope Sports, in conjunction with the YA+ Gold Programme. The Lopez Gonzalez family - Aldaneli, Juan Carlos, and their three year-old son Ian – previously lived in a small plywood shack, with tarps stapled to the walls to keep out the cold.
On the first day, the athletes learned how to use power tools, frame walls, and paint. By the end of the day, the house had taken shape, with young Ian applauding as the walls went up.
“I didn’t think we were going to build everything from scratch. I thought we were going to do smaller things, rather than us being up on the roof doing the whole thing. It’s cool because we were more hands-on and a part of it,” said Jake Vedder, snowboardcross athlete and Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist.
On day two, the athletes shingled the roof, and finished the inside of the home with drywall and electrical wiring. They also donated some of their own money to take the family shopping. The Lopez Gonzalez family returned from their shopping spree to find their house finished, furnished and ready for a fiesta.
The weekend was enhanced by talks from renowned sports psychologists and industry leaders encouraging athletes to step beyond their latest results, and strive to lead a purpose-driven life.
“This will probably stay with me my entire life as being the first experience I’ve ever had that was truly impactful,” said Jake Pates, Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist in Slopestyle and Halfpipe Snowboarding.
For me, the YOG spirit of learning and sharing was alive and well during this trip. It was a joy to watch the athletes teach each other and learn from each other. They bonded across the barriers of different sports, ages and genders. Athletes arrived as members of individual sports, across a variety of disciplines, and departed as one team. They gained new perspectives on themselves and the world around them, returning home as global ambassadors of their sports.