USParalympics.org caught up with U.S. Paralympians and hopefuls to discuss their holiday plans.
Chris Ahrens, soccer (seven-a-side)
Where are you spending Christmas? I will be spending Christmas with my family – my parents, siblings, five nieces and nephews – and fiancée in Syracuse, N.Y.
Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? Growing up as a kid we were allowed to open the family presents on Christmas Eve and then Santa's presents on Christmas Day. I loved that as a kid, there was so much excitement surrounding both days. Now we mostly do Christmas Day. It’s different with all of my siblings having young kids. They will do Christmas at their own homes and then we will all get together.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? I now live in San Diego, far away from my family, so my new favorite tradition is getting to fly home and see them. I get a few weeks off from work so I get to spend a good amount of time with them.
What is your favorite Christmas memory? My favorite memory is Christmas Eve as a kid. We would have a fun dinner, pizza or some other terrible thing for me, and then open the presents we got from each other. I think I used to be just as excited about that as I was for Christmas Day.
When do you open Christmas gifts? I open Christmas gifts on Christmas Day. My fiancée and I will open gifts for each other before we head home though.
What is on your Christmas list this year? On my list this year was the Apple TV. It’s not actually a TV but it lets you watch your iPad on your TV or things like Netflix and Hulu.
If you could receive anything for Christmas, regardless of the cost, what would it be? Hmmmmm, good question. I guess a new TV. That might not sound exciting but I could really use a new TV, well a bigger one anyway.
What is your favorite Christmas song? I think my favorite Christmas song is “Little Drummer Boy” or “Jingle Bell Rock”.
Amanda Everlove, swimming
Where are you spending Christmas? I'm spending Christmas in Kansas with my family.
Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? We usually celebrate Christmas both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Every Christmas Eve my mom makes Italian Wedding Soup. It's simple but it's something I look forward to every Christmas.
What is your favorite Christmas memory? One year we spent Christmas in the mountains, skiing and playing in the snow. My parents arranged for a friend to set up an air hockey table in our house while we were gone. When we got back, I was convinced that Santa was real because who else would be sneaking into our house to leave toys when we weren't even there? Couldn't have been my parents because they were in the mountains with me.
When do you open Christmas gifts? We open family presents on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas we open stockings and Santa’s presents.
What is on your Christmas list this year? This is going to sound weird but hair products like deep conditioners. The chlorine is really doing a number on my hair recently.
What is your favorite Christmas song? Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas” is definitely a favorite.
Jennifer French, sailing
Where are you spending Christmas?
We are spending it at home in St. Petersburg, Fla. My local family was scattered last year and my husband was working. This year we are all together so it will be fun.
Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? Both. I always enjoy Christmas Eve candlelight service. It reminds us of why we celebrate the holiday. Christmas morning is fun with the young nieces and nephews.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? My favorite tradition is the Christmas Eve candlelight service.
What is your favorite Christmas memory? When we were younger, my dad would dress up like Santa and run around the house. The kids would run from room to room trying to get a sight of Santa, but we never did. He then left candy cane on the porch for us.
When do you open Christmas gifts? We open our gifts on Christmas morning.
What is on your Christmas list this year? They are sentimental this year: family recipes from my mother and mother-in-law, sailing on the family boat and a nice holiday dinner.
What is your favorite Christmas song? My favorite song is “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.
Lee Ford, archery
Which winter holidays are you celebrating this year? We celebrate Christmas and Yule.
Where are you spending Christmas? I am spending Christmas in Georgia, with our family, unless we surprise my husband's 93-year-old grandmother in Missouri.
Do you traditionally celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? We celebrate Winter Solstice on Dec. 21 and Christmas on Christmas Day.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
My favorite tradition is putting up the tree.
What is your favorite Christmas memory?
When I did singing telegrams through college, we had a lot of Santas who worked for the company. I got the best Santa we had to come to the house to visit my 4-year-old daughter, Shelby. She was asleep and did not want to wake up for dinner, but saw Santa and had a huge attitude adjustment. Dinner with Santa was the best. And Shelby didn't want Santa to leave.
When do you open Christmas gifts? Christmas morning
What is on your Christmas list this year? For the local county and city to find archery range space, indoor and outdoor.
If you could receive anything for Christmas, regardless of the cost, what would it be? An Organic Transit recumbent bike that has a shell, e-motor assist and a solar panel to recharge the bike's motor. Super neat and super green.
What is your favorite Christmas song? My favorite song is “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”.
Jessica Galli, track and field
Where are you spending Christmas? I am spending Christmas on Cape Cod (Massachusetts) with my parents Betsy and Phil, my sister Katy and my fiancée Gavin.
Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? My father's side of the family is Italian so Christmas Eve is a big day of eating for us. We have our own version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is a big Italian Christmas Eve celebration. Usually we spend that day with extended family but this year it will just be the five of us. We'll go to bed that night with full bellies and wake up early on Christmas to open presents.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? My mom gave both my sister and me wooden advent calendars a few years ago. I love the tradition that we've started and of course, I love getting small presents each day December 1 through Christmas Eve.
If you could receive anything for Christmas, regardless of the cost, what would it be? I'd love to road trip around the country and see all there is to see. So I'd ask for a super sweet RV that is accessible and a few nights in hotels for when I get tired of the RV.
What is your favorite Christmas song? I love all the classics but my two favorite non-traditional Christmas songs are “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey”.
Mike Shea, snowboarding
Which winter holidays are you celebrating this year? Christmas and Hanukkah. I have always celebrated Christmas but this year I was able to see what it was like to celebrate Hanukkah. My girlfriend is Jewish so she showed me how to light the menorah and we made a bunch of traditional Jewish food. Then she got to see what it was like to celebrate Christmas. Growing up she never celebrated Christmas so she had a blast picking out a Christmas tree and decorating the house.
Where are you spending Christmas? I will be spending Christmas in the best place possible: Winter Park, Colo. I will definitely be missing the time I normally spend with my mom, dad and brother in Los Angeles. My girlfriend and I will most likely take part in the torchlight Christmas Eve parade where we will snowboard down the mountain at night with torches. On Christmas Day we will sleep in, cook a good breakfast and go out on the slopes for a few hours.
Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both? After waking my parents up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning as a young kid, my mother decided to start celebrating Christmas the night before with dinner and gift opening. I wasn't going to argue with that. To this day we still celebrate it on Christmas Eve, and then we were up all night playing with our new toys and electronics. It really helps to keep Christmas Day clear for the celebration of the actual holiday: the birth of Christ.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? My favorite Christmas tradition is definitely the picking out of the family Christmas tree, More often than not it was spent arguing with my parents to get the biggest Christmas tree in the lot. Nonetheless, it is one of my favorite traditions. In Los Angeles, I’m used to paying top dollar at a Christmas tree lot for a tree that’s half dead. After moving to Colorado, I got to see how the real traditional tree picking is done. This year we went to the ranger station for a $10 dollar tree permit. We were able to walk the forest for the perfect tree. It was definitely a cool experience.
What is on your Christmas list this year? As you get older you realize that life isn't as much about material things as it is about friendships. I am usually happy with anything.
If you could receive anything for Christmas, regardless of the cost, what would it be? If i could receive anything for Christmas without having to worry about cost, it would probably be some woodworking machines. Last year I had to sell all of my woodworking machines and antique tools to pay for my coaching and training.
Clark Rachfal, cycling
Where are you spending Christmas? I celebrate Christmas in Annapolis with my immediate family and close family friends. Each year, we have a pre-Christmas dinner with the Smiths, the family of friends my sister and I have known since daycare. Christmas morning in the Rachfal house is quiet and intimate as we root through our stockings and the presents under the tree. Once the dust settles, we clean ourselves up and join other close family friends, the Bradys, for the rest of Christmas. The Bradys are a good Catholic family. On Christmas Day we’re welcomed into their home as honorary members of the Brady clan along with 60 or so of their closest relatives.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? My dad’s mom instilled a great card playing tradition in our family. Gathering everyone around a table for hours of laughter and name calling is always a highlight of every Rachfal holiday and family function. My dad decorates the holly tree in our front yard with blue lights every year. This has grown into a tradition in our neighborhood and looks amazing with a fresh blanket of snow. Another more recent tradition is gathering my friends to bake cookies. This may seem perfectly normal at first, however, last year the group included a Navy SEAL, a Harvard PhD student, a Paralympian and a professional who quit his job to hike the Appalachian Trail, your usual crowd of 20-somethings baking cookies, as you do.
What is on your Christmas list this year? On my Christmas list this year is the same thing that’s on my Christmas list every year – a pony. One of these years, someone will call my bluff…and since miniature horses are now used as guide animals for the blind, this is becoming more of a possibility.
If you could receive anything for Christmas, regardless of the cost, what would it be? Is this where I answer world peace or the end of hunger and human suffering? I like to think of myself as pretty simple. I don’t need much, but I want plenty. Just give me happy and healthy family and friends with the flexibility to travel the world and I’m set.
What is your favorite Christmas song? “Silent Night” sung a Capella by a church congregation under candlelight. There’s just something pure and powerful about that. This year, I took my sister to the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert in Washington D.C. for her birthday. Never has Christmas music rocked so hard.