Tucked high in the Chilean Andes, there isn’t much in the world of metro comforts at the women’s U.S. Ski Team’s fall training home in Portillo. That’s just fine for three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso. After ripping half a dozen downhill training runs, she kicked back to map her next run of charity auctions.
“Giving back must have been subconsciously instilled in me from my mom,” said Mancuso after a morning of multiple laps of giant slalom. “She was always into charity, always involved in something and that must have rubbed off on me. It’s an important part of who I am.”
Click the “Helping Hands” tab on www.juliamancuso.com and you’ll find links to Right to Play, the World Wildlife Fund and LIV, a non-profit started by her sister April with roots in global wellness. The top of the page spells it out “$40,000 Raised” and counting.
For Mancuso, this is just the base of what’s possible.
A 2008 summit of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro along with friend and British Ski Team athlete Chemmy Alcott resulted in a donation of $30,000 to Right to Play. Mancuso dedicated the journey to Betsy Watson, her 58-year-old grandmother who passed away on May 31, 2008 to lung cancer. At 19,340 feet above sea level, Mancuso ceremoniously held a flag for Betsy. It read “I’ll be thinking of your everlasting POSITIVITY as I push for the summit. With every step you’ve encouraged me! I will shine your light and keep shining!”
A few days later she was at Dar Es Salaam, a nearby African Right to Play camp inspiring children.
“I’ve been able to see a lot of cool places in my life, but in those travels, I’ve also seen a lot of poverty and a lot of hardship,” she said. “There’s so much more we can do. Once I started making money as a skier, it didn’t take a second thought to start giving back.”
When a Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti with over 200,000 deaths, Mancuso didn’t hesitate. She immediately rallied fellow women’s Audi FIS Alpine World Cup athletes to sign and donate their bibs for auction on eBay. Now retired teammate Scott Macartney and two-time World Cup overall winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway stepped to the plate on the men’s side. The combined effort sent over $90,000 in aid to the Caribbean country.
“There’s something about race bibs which gets people excited and I understand that,” said Mancuso. “Each bib I wear is a story, a memory and fans want to be a part of that story. Our fans are just as passionate about ski racing as we are and they want to be a part of what we do.”
And with that, she said the next round of auctions is nearly ready to go.
“I’ll be ready by October,” she said. “I’ve collected so many things from the Olympic season and it’s nearly ready to go up for auction. The cool thing now is that so many people can help me get the word out. With Facebook and Twitter being so interactive, it becomes a charity effort that my friends and fans can be a part of. We all spread the good word.”
Also in the works is more collaboration with World Cup Dreams, a Foundation started by U.S. Ski Team alums Erik Schlopy and Bryon Friedman. Now run by Macartney, the group provides resources for young skiers pursuing the highest level of ski racing.
“No matter what it is you support, you have to believe full-heartedly in it,” said Mancuso. “I believe in skiing and through skiing I’ve been able to help a lot of people. When it all comes down to it, we’re spreading hope.”