(Clockwise L-R): Kate Courtney, Madison Keys, Jessie Diggins and Mikaela Shiffrin have all raised money for COVID-19 relief through an online auction.
Mikaela Shiffrin was self-quarantined at home in Vail, Colorado, when she noticed several athletes on social media—particularly NBA players, who were offering to pay salaries for workers at the stadiums and gyms where they play and workout—donating to food banks and other organizations for COVID-19 aid.
Shiffrin wanted to help too.
“One of the biggest things we’re seeing right now is how many people have filed for unemployment,” the three-time Olympic medalist alpine skier said by phone. “The numbers are astounding. That’s something that has hit home for me.”
But where to start?
She considered starting her own foundation. But setting it up would take time — and in this crisis, quick relief is needed.
So she texted a consultant friend who is well-connected and had an idea for Shiffrin.
Madison Keys, the U.S. tennis player who finished fourth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, was launching a #KindnessInCrisis campaign through her Kindness Wins initiative.
Through Kindness In Crisis, Keys, Shiffrin, Olympic champion cross-country skier Jessie Diggins and world champion mountain bike racer Kate Courtney are auctioning items such as signed race bibs, hats, uniforms, headphones and more to raise funds for COVID-19 relief. Shiffrin said other athletes will likely soon join the auction. Proceeds from the auction go toward organizations of each athlete’s choice.
In Shiffrin’s case, funds raised go toward the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund as well as the Food Bank of the Rockies—two organizations that Shiffrin says are doing broad-based work to provide relief to those who are hit hard by the crisis.
“There’s a lot of amazing organizations out there,” said Shiffrin. “I felt like those were two are the most broadly-covering organizations that are really doing a lot of amazing work. They were the most impactful for what I was shooting for.”
At first, Shiffrin donated a couple hats that she wears on the podium, signature goggles, a U.S. Ski & Snowboard jacket and pants, and a speed suit that she wore when she won the giant slalom on Dec. 28, 2019, in Lienz, Austria.
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To date, the current bid on the jacket, valued at $350, is $3,800. Bids on the speed suit are up to $1,650. The goggles are going for $3,000. And a $100 pom-pom-ed hat is at $1,705.
With such a positive response, Shiffrin added more items, including a personalized selfie video with a buy price of $1,000.
“I just added some headphones in addition to a hat that I wear on the podium,” she said. “The hats are custom made, so there’s not many of them around. So here’s a chance!”
Diggins’ items include clothes, a race bib, selfie video and a signed copy of her new book, “Brave Enough.” Keys is auctioning tennis shoes, tennis shirt, limited edition monogrammed bag, a racket and a selfie video as well. Courtney’s items include a helmet and her world champion jersey.
So far, the auction has raised more than $30,000.
These are just four of the many Team USA athletes who are supporting COVID-19 relief. Soccer player Julie Ertz and her husband, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, have donated $100,000 to Philabundance through their family foundation. Philabundance is a Philadelphia-area food bank.
Shaun White tweeted that he is donating money to cover the cost of masks and other supplies to area hospitals.
And other athletes, such as swimmers Nathan Adrian and Michael Phelps, “Miracle on Ice” hockey player Mike Eruzione, gymnasts Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, softball player Jennie Finch, and so many more (117 and counting), have donated signed swimsuits, jerseys, and leotards for COVID-19 relief through the website Athletes for Relief.
The items are “won” through a sweepstakes. Anyone who donates at least $25 is entered to win the item from the athlete they choose. Money raised supports the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a nonprofit conceived after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by several funders committed to making disaster-related contributions more effective and strategic.
For Shiffrin, who has self-quarantined at home since her return to the U.S. on March 14, the ability to do something positive helps ease the frustration and sense of helplessness that many feel during this pandemic crisis. Many of the workers in the Vail Valley—a region based on international tourism—have been gravely affected by “shelter in place” orders, and their predicament has hit Shiffrin and her family hard.
“More than anything else, the effects that this is having on our economy and the effects that that in turn is having on everybody in the entire world is just, I don’t know, it’s terrible,” she said. “I wanted to try to find some way to support people locally in the Vail Valley area and statewide who are being affected disproportionately by this. There’s plenty of people who have savings and are going to be OK, and there’s a majority of people who don’t.”
An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.