The Weekly Optimist

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

Every four years 85 nations come together in a spectacular event where all barriers and political agendas are pushed aside, and athletes compete for Olympic gold. I had never come to appreciate some of the wonderful things that do occur at the Olympics-the camaraderie between the athletes, the unity of a city. It sounds terribly corny, but during this time there truly is a spirit that encompasses the games. My appreciation for the Olympics began when Park City resident Joey Cheek won the men’s 500-meter speed skating race. Cheek blazed through the rink at record speed and completed it in 69.76 seconds. But it was not his insane speed or dashing smile when he raised his arms in triumph that impressed me; it was his interview after the race that set him apart from the other athletes.Cheek announced in this interview that he was donating all of his winnings from the races that he participates in to the Right to Play Foundation, an organization that is “dedicated to creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sports and play,” according to the Right to Play Website. Some of the projects the foundation has sponsored include building a hospital in war-torn Bosnia, supporting refugees from Afghanistan and partnering with UNICEF to vaccinate 12.2 million children and 800,000 women to prevent them from contracting some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Now, I realize that Olympic athletes are usually well paid, and they have sponsors who take good care of them. But $40,000 is a lot of money to give away. Cheek called his sponsors after his announcement and asked each of them to match his winnings to be given to the charity. Sponsors Lenovino, Gap and Nike have accepted and more are likely to follow. The total donation amount has reached almost $250,000, which will make a great difference.This is an epic Olympic story that goes beyond athletic ability and displays heroism and nobility that should be found in sports more frequently. Few of us have million-dollar sponsorship deals or the ability to donate $40,000; however, we can share Cheek’s unique spirit of selflessness with one another. The time has come for each of us to reach higher, move faster and be stronger as members of this human race. If we have the desire to make a difference and act on it as Cheek has shown us, we can anticipate a brighter future for all.