U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation News

United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation announces inaugural recipients of the Team USA Service & Hope Award

by U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation

Colorado Springs, Co. -- Four Team USA athletes who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service within their communities have been selected as winners of the Team USA Service & Hope Award, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation announced today. 


As determined by the selection committee, the athletes (and their corresponding nonprofits) whose application materials best embodied the spirit of the award were: 
  • Shea Hammond & CP Soccer US 
  • Darlene Hunter & National Wheelchair Basketball Association 
  • Kai Lightner & Climbing for Change 
  • Nzingha Prescod & Fencing in the Park

Established in 2021, the Team USA Service & Hope Award celebrates Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls who serve in a volunteer role with charitable organizations whose missions focus on youth sport, physical activity, or health and well-being. Each awardee will receive $25,000, half of which will be directed to the nonprofit they serve. 


“We are thrilled to recognize the awe-inspiring achievements of our awardees, who showed us that they truly go above and beyond in service to their communities,” said Christine Walshe, president of the USOPF. “I extend my congratulations to Shea, Darlene, Kai and Nzingha and my appreciation for every Team USA athlete who applied and continue to serve their communities.” 


In its inaugural year, the award received 134 applications. Nearly 71% of applicants were Olympians or Paralympians, while 76% were athletes who are currently training and competing. Three out of four applicants were summer sport athletes, with the highest number of applications coming from track and field athletes. Notably, athlete applicants spent a collective 9,250 hours, or 385 days, volunteering over the past 18 months. 


“Our athlete applicants blew us away with their stories of service, and it was incredibly difficult to select just four winners from such a qualified and inspiring group of applicants,” said Yucca Rieschel, co-chair of the award’s selection committee. “Based on the interest the program has generated, we are hopeful that this award will continue to recognize and publicize the countless ways that Team USA athletes are making a difference in their communities.” 

Shea Hammond, who represented Team USA at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 as a member of the men’s soccer 7-a-side team, is passionate about empowering kids with cerebral palsy to play soccer. His nonprofit, CP Soccer US, provides free access to soccer for any child with ambulatory cerebral palsy, stroke or traumatic brain injury, with 10 in-person training locations around the nation. Hammond aims to show the disabled and able-bodied communities how important it is to give kids with disabilities equal access to sports. 


Three-time Paralympian Darlene Hunter was the co-captain of the women’s wheelchair basketball team that most recently won bronze at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. She is also a member of the board of directors of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, which offers opportunities for people with lower-limb disabilities to compete and develop their skills. Hunter founded the first and only all-women's wheelchair basketball camp, and she is also working to establish more regional development camps for women, start a mentorship program and bolster the women’s pipeline for the sport. 


Sport climber Kai Lightner is a three-time IFSC Youth World Championship medalist. As one of the only African American climbers at the elite level, he saw an opportunity to create more pathways to climbing for people of color. In July 2020, Lightner founded Climbing for Change (C4C), which connects climbers of color with organizations that seek to increase minority participation in rock climbing and the outdoor adventure industry. Since its inception, C4C has awarded $47,000 in grants to organizations helping to make climbing more inclusive. 


Two-time Olympian Nzingha Prescod, who became the first Black American woman to medal at the World Fencing Championships in 2015, dealt with a hip injury that forced her to retire in 2020. In the same year, she founded Fencing in the Park, which introduces under-resourced communities in New York City to the sport of fencing and its principles of fitness, discipline, focus, strategic thinking and problem-solving. Her ultimate goal is to develop the next generation of leaders and champions, in sport and beyond. 

For more information on the Team USA Service & Hope Award, please contact serviceandhope@usopc.org.  
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