Donor Spotlight: Josh and Carrie Helland's Olympic love story
by Devin Lowe
Josh and Carrie Helland with their daughter, 14-month-old Georgina, at the inaugural OTC VIP Weekend.
Less than two months after their first date, Carrie and Josh Helland were in London together.
Josh was embarking on his second trip to the Olympic Games, having celebrated Team USA with other supporters in Beijing four years earlier. Before Carrie met him, she didn’t know how people attended the Games, but she wanted to find out.
So she bought a plane ticket at the last minute – Los Angeles to London – and made the journey that would change both her and Josh’s lives.
“Thank goodness we got married, because otherwise I would have been the crazy girl that showed up in London to go to the Olympics,” Carrie says.
Since then, their love story has only gotten more intertwined with their passion for the Olympic Movement. After they married in November 2013, they incorporated the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games into their honeymoon plans.
And in 2016, Josh and Carrie stayed stateside during the Rio Games for a good reason: Their daughter, Georgina, was due to be born the day of Opening Ceremony.
That didn’t deter Josh, ever the Olympic enthusiast, from trying to keep up with the action.
“I’m in labor. In between contractions, he’s got the Games on,” Carrie says. “At one point I had to tell him, ‘You have to turn that off. We are having this baby!’”
“There was time in between contractions,” Josh says. “I had the iPad out.”
“The iPad, the TV, the phone…” Carrie adds. “It was just going ‘round the clock.”
The couple’s lifelong love of sport began at a young age and blossomed as they developed as athletes themselves.
Carrie grew up following Team USA and the Olympic Games as a distance runner at the University of Kansas.
Josh remembers intently watching the Los Angeles Games in 1984 and the Seoul Games four years later, fascinated by the swimmers. It was partly what inspired him to begin swimming in the first place. He kept up with the sport through high school, where he trained with Olympic coach Gregg Troy, and swam for Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
“The Olympic Games [are] the Super Bowl of swimming,” Josh says. “There are only two Olympic athletes per event in swimming, so it’s really, really tough.”
While they were in Sochi for the 2014 Games, a conversation with a Team USA athlete’s father opened their eyes to the significant financial commitment athletes and their families make to ensure they can achieve their Olympic or Paralympic dream.
“His son was 22. This was his first Games, and he made the team, but he wasn’t gonna medal,” Carrie says. “He wasn’t this big prominent athlete getting all these sponsorship deals … And he was just saying how expensive it gets. He said the previous year they’d spent almost $30,000 just on airfare.”
Soon after, the Hellands learned that the U.S. Olympic Committee is a nonprofit that receives no government funding. Because of their love for the Olympic Games, philanthropy seemed a logical next step.
“We want to support these athletes because we can relate to what they’re going through,” Carrie says. “Not all families come from means and their kids could be talented; they need to be supported. We love contributing to that because it’s something we’re really passionate about.”
Since they became supporters of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, they’ve been guests at a Team USA media event in West Hollywood and the USOPF’s inaugural VIP Weekend at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, where Josh trained with future Olympians in the early 1990s.
They also recently hosted a breakfast at their home in Los Angeles to celebrate the 100-day countdown to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which they plan on attending.
As they become more involved with the USOPF, the Hellands plan on passing down their love of the Olympic Games to their daughter Georgina, who, at 14 months old, will always mark the anniversary of Team USA’s legendary performance in Rio.
“All these entities, they rely on donor money,” Carrie says. “I think that’s why we’re really committed to making this part of our family and part of our life. We love giving back.”