Team Behind the Team VIP Weekend shows donors how their dollars fund dreams
by Devin Lowe
USOPF donor Don Daley lights the Olympic Training Center torch on Friday, Oct. 12.
The Olympic Training Center opened up its doors to a select group of donors for a behind-the-scenes peek at a day in the life of a Team USA athlete at the second annual Team Behind the Team VIP Weekend from Oct. 12-14.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation staff hosted donors from nine states in Colorado Springs, Colorado, showing them how to eat, train and recover like their favorite Olympians and Paralympians.
“We love any opportunity we get to show donors what the Olympic and Paralympic movements are all about, and our Team Behind the Team VIP Weekend is such a special way to inspire them right here in Olympic City USA,” said James Bjorklund, director of development event services and Games hospitality for the USOPF. “Our hope is that they leave Colorado Springs knowing just how important they are to the success of our athletes — and how hard our athletes work to represent them and the country well on the world stage.”
The weekend kicked off with tours of the Crawford Family U.S. Olympic Archives, which now houses a complete collection of Olympic relay torches and participation medals, thanks to USOPF Chairman Gordy Crawford’s recent donation.
On Friday evening, guests got their first glimpse of the OTC with a special torch-lighting ceremony and dinner in the Visitors Center rotunda, which included a judo demonstration with judoka Alexa Liddie and Paralympian Dartanyon Crockett.
Donors began the next day with a strength and conditioning workout at the Ted Stevens Sports Center, followed by a guided, interactive tour of the facility. Guests then chose their sport activity, fencing or shooting, and squared off against each other for the top prize in each competition.
“I truly appreciate and admire the work that both the USOC team and the athletes put in, particularly after experiencing it firsthand,” said Jamie Pabst, a donor from the New York City area. “We had a lot of fun getting to know the rest of the group and getting a little workout ourselves.”
At lunch, they had the chance to mingle with athletes like bobsledder Nate Weber, figure skater Karen Chen and Para swimmer Sophia Herzog, among others.
After a raucous sitting volleyball tournament on Saturday afternoon, dinner was held at the Colorado Springs Velodrome, where guests had the chance to race Para-cyclists Nick Gibb and Chris Murphy on watt bikes after they wowed the crowd with a few quick laps around the track.
“I had a wonderful time this past weekend. The Training Center was interesting and inspiring,” said Houston-based donor Stephanie Larsen. “Now that I am older, I am especially impressed with athletic movement and prowess. I couldn’t believe how the cyclists could make those wheels whirl!”
The weekend wrapped up with a snowy hike through Garden of the Gods.
Overall, guests shared that one of their biggest takeaways from the experience was that many Team USA athletes rely on the generosity of donors to make their dreams come true. As the athletes shared their stories, donors began to see how big of a role they play in an athlete’s journey — and how deeply they are appreciated.
“Donors are so critical to what we do, and I appreciated the opportunity to share my story with them and to thank them for their gifts to Team USA. Without them, we couldn’t compete against athletes from other countries — who are directly funded by their governments — and bring home medals for the U.S.,” Murphy said. “My teammates and I are all incredibly grateful that they’re invested in our journeys.”
To check out photos from this year’s Team Behind the Team VIP Weekend, please click here.