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Olympians Help Victims of Colorado Fires

By Sarah Higgins | July 11, 2012, 3 p.m. (ET)

Olympic bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz holds his gold medal from the Vancouver
Winter Games with Tommy Smith, Mike Smaldino, Steve Schopper, and Rich
Brown of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. 

“It’s heavy!” Madison Brown exclaimed as Olympic bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz slipped his gold medal from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games around her neck.

Brown, the 12-year-old daughter of Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown, had come to iT’Z, a family fun center, in Colorado Springs on Monday, as part of a community event supporting victims of the recent Waldo Canyon Fire.  The fire, which started blazing on June 23 and as of Tuesday evening was 100-percent contained, destroyed an estimated 350 homes in Colorado Springs. iT’Z, working in conjunction with the mayor’s office and the United States Olympic Committee, organized a night of games and food for children and their families who lost their homes in the fire.

Tomasevicz, who earned his gold medal in four-man bobsled, was one of 16 athletes currently training at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center who participated in the event.


Sixteen athletes from the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center and two
Denver Broncos pose 
with children who lost their homes in the Waldo Canyon
Fire in Colorado 
Springs. 

“I think, a lot of times, we get caught up in our day-to-day training,” Tomasevicz said. “We get so focused on winning medals or going to the Olympics. Sometimes, it’s good to be a part of something else; you are reminded of the things that are more important. The community’s coming together over the last few weeks has been pretty inspirational and people can view that as inspiring as the Olympics are."

“Colorado Springs has been my home for the last five summers,” said Olympic bobsledder Emily Azevedo. “There’s been so much support with the community and the Olympic movement and celebrating us that it feels nice to be able to do something back for the community that’s supported us throughout so many years at the Olympic Training Center,” Azevedo said.

Mark DeWitt, general manager of iTZ Colorado Springs, was approached by the mayor’s office to put together an event for the evacuees, especially the young children affected by the fires. “I think it’s so fantastic that we can have people that can motivate the kids and show them how to overcome obstacles,” DeWitt said of the athletes’ presence at the event. “We’re so blessed. The community spirit is just unbelievable. As soon as they mentioned it on TV, we started getting so many calls. We actually started getting so many donations that we had to start turning them away.” Food, gift cards, and thousands of toys were donated for the 300 children and their families at the event.


    Madison Brown, 12, poses with Curt Tomasevicz's gold medal and a group
    of athletes. 

Madison Brown knew the event was about more than meeting the athletes she will watch compete in London later this month and Sochi in 2014. “Just to meet the people who lost their homes and just to see them and talk to them—it was cool to meet everybody,” Brown said.

Brown’s mother, Lori, was appreciative of the athletes’ contribution to raising the spirit of the community. “Especially now with the summer Olympics going on, I think it was a really important thing that they did,” Lori Brown said. “All the pictures they were taking with the families, I thought it was amazing.”

“We came for the families,” Lori Brown said, “and this has been amazing, to meet actual Olympians. I really am in awe. Anything that we can do for our citizens, especially going through this tragedy, this is an amazing thing, and to have these really important people coming, I thought it was amazing.”

While the kids marveled at the gold medal Tomasevicz placed around their necks, the athletes felt the type of high they usually get on the competition field for having the opportunity to give back to their community. 

“It’s cool to meet the kids, especially for me, because I’m going to London,” said modern pentathlete Dennis Bowsher, who will be competing in his first Games. “London’s right around the corner, so giving them someone to cheer for when they watch, someone they’ve actually met, it’s pretty cool."

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