U.S. athletes and coaches call Living the Dream Medal Fund donors during Thank-a-thon
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - There is something special about saying thank you.
Members of the national teams in all three Olympic styles took some time after training on Wednesday to call donors to the Living the Dream Medal Fund and share their appreciation for their support.
A bank of phones were placed in the wrestling room at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for the Living the Dream Thank-a-thon. Numerous athletes and coaches worked the phones, reaching out to those who have decided to "JOIN THE LIST."
They were able to speak to people around the country, and left voicemail messages for those they were unable to connect with.
The athletes enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the public, and they believed that the donors appreciated their phone call.
"They were pretty excited. They were very supportive. They kept saying good luck and thank you for calling. They were very appreciative. It was fun to do," said Freestyle World Team member Tervel Dlagnev.
One of those on Dlagnev's list was Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World champion. Dlagnev competes in freestyle at super heavyweight, the same division where Baumgartner made history a generation ago.
2002 Greco-Roman World champion Dremiel Byers, who competed in the 2008 Olympic Games, enjoyed speaking with past Olympian Werner Holzer, who was one of the founding leaders of USA Wrestling. Byers said that he enjoyed the experience.
"They were happy to help us, and were excited about the phone call," said Byers.
The Living the Dream Medal Fund was unveiled in late May, a new program to substantially increase the financial rewards for U.S. wrestlers who win Olympic and World medals during the next four-year Olympic cycle. Hundreds of people around the nation have already donated to the program.
Many of the wrestlers found out just how close the wrestling community is.
Freestyle World Team member Jake Herbert said that he knew something about everybody on his list, which included Olympic champion Dan Gable, FloWrestling founder Martin Floriani, and the sister of NCAA champion Jesse Jantzen.
Freestyle World Team member Shawn Bunch also reached people who he had a connection with. He spoke with Bill Crum, who he knew from the Beat the Streets program. Another person on his list was the high school coach of NCAA champion Gregor Gillespie from Edinboro, which is the college where Bunch competed.
The Thank-a-thon gave the athletes a chance to talk a little wrestling with those who support the sport.
"One of the people said that they were going to attend the World Championships in Denmark," said Women's World Team member Deanna Rix. "They were really excited about it and said they will donate more."
"A guy I spoke with wrestles at the Veterans Nationals," said Women's Team USA member Leigh Jaynes. "He said he was a big wrestling fan. He said that he will absolutely tell his friends about the fund. When we were talking, he looked up my profile on the internet, so he knew about me. He liked talking about his own wrestling. It was fun."
In addition to athletes, National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones and Greco-Roman World Team Coach Dan Chandler also made calls.
"It was fun to talk to them," said Chandler. "For those I didn't talk to, I left my cell phone number in case they wanted to call me back later."
Women's national team member Jenna Pavlik noticed that she had World and Olympic champion John Smith on her call list. Smith is one of the 2009 U.S. Freestyle World Team coaches, and was still in the USOTC wrestling room after the day's workout. Pavlik walked over and thanked Smith for his donation in person.
The athletes came away with a new appreciation of the wrestling community, which is stepping up with donations to support their Olympic dreams. With the 2009 World Championships in Herning, Denmark only a few weeks away, the World Team members received encouragement for their efforts.
Bringing the wrestling community together is the focus of the Living the Dream Medal Fund, and the Thank-a-thon helped bring the current athletes and the donors understand that they are truly all members of the national team for wrestling.
"It is like wrestling. The journey begins with a few small steps. We took steps today by making these calls," said USA Wrestling Director of Development Larry Nugent. "Everybody seemed willing to ask their friends to JOIN THE LIST also."
People have been asked to give donations from $5 to $5,000 to the fund. A website has been established where wrestling supporters can make donations to the project.
To say "I'M ON THE LIST" and make an online donation, click here: https://www.usawmembership.com/MakeDonation.jsp?programId=501.
Supporters can also send their contribution by mail. Checks should be made out to USA Wrestling, and sent to:
Living the Dream Medal Fund
c/o USA Wrestling
6155 Lehman Dr.
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
For the current list of Living the Dream Medal Fund donors, click here: http://www.themat.com/section.php?section_id=3&page=showarticle&ArticleID=20465.