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Focus Vail Valley

A CHAMPION CHAMPIONS

A few years ago, Lindsey Vonn was celebrated in a People magazine article titled “25 Women Changing the World.” And rightly so. At the time, Vonn, the winner of Olympic Gold and more World Cup titles than any skier in history, was getting ready to change the world with the introduction of her nascent Lindsey Vonn Foundation (LVD).

As Vonn told the magazine, she was nine years old when she met Olympic ski racer Picabo Street at an autograph signing in a ski shop in Minneapolis. “It was like meeting a superhero in real life,” she relates. “Those two minutes changed my perspective and made me want to be an Olympian. I think little things can make a big impact and help change a life.”

So Vonn created her foundation to do just that: make a big impact and help change a life. “I want to empower young girls and inspire them in as many ways as we can,” she says. “We try and help them gain confidence and pursue dreams even when people tell them they can’t.”

Vonn began creating the LVF four years ago when she was sidelined with an injury she received at the Sochi Games. She created workshops called Strong Girl Camps, free community speaker events and scholarships. In fact, the foundation has already supported over 300 young women. Although a small operation—all staff members, other than the director, Vonn’s younger sister, Laura Kildow, who Vonn pays largely out of her own pocket—are volunteers. Essentially, the LVF provides scholarships and programming for education, sports and enrichment programs to give future generations the tools they need to succeed. “With the infrastructure and funds we have, we’ve been able to do a high-quality job, making sure the girls are really impacted,” says Vonn. “I want to teach them about grit, how to be tough and confident, to be able to set goals for themselves and not be taken down by bullies. I want them to feel empowered on every level.” The foundation’s ’70s Glam Jam event, held in April 2018, raised $125,000, which went towards scholarships, education and athletics. The funds for scholarships helped 18 recipients pursue education, leadership and athletic endeavors. The applicants, ages 11 to 18 were encouraged to showcase their ability to overcome obstacles, discover grit and pursue a passion to achieve their goals. Applicants applied for scholarship amounts ranging from $100 to $5000.

LVD scholarship recipients were notified via a video message from Vonn who shared her excitement for their pursuits and encouraged each winner to keep working hard to reach her goal. “I want to give girls hope,” says Vonn, who prides herself on being hands-on with the foundation’s programs. “All girls can be inspired. Maybe you’re getting bullied in school, or you’re not confident, or you have a coach or a teacher who tells you you’re not good enough.

“We want to help change that path and help them believe in themselves so they see there’s another way. Sometimes it takes just a small gesture to help girls better deal with their world.” The foundation’s 2019 fundraiser will be held on March 29, at the Four Seasons in Vail and will feature an ’80s prom theme. Everyone is encouraged to “bust out their side ponies and pump up the house music.”

“Last year’s event was such a huge success for the foundation and everyone had a blast,” says Vonn. “With the contributions of our sponsors and a sold-out house of supporters, it was a huge step forward in our mission to positively impact the next generation.” Helping others is a responsibility that Vonn embraces; a responsibility that she looks forward to continuing long after she hangs up her skis.

“While I would like to be known as the greatest skier of all time,” admits Vonn, “I also want my legacy to be about giving back as much as I can.”