Much has been written about the impact and legacy of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The venues created for the Olympics continue to pay great dividends to Utah and the Park City community, providing a playing field for youths with Olympic dreams.
The venues of steel and snow have done their job. But what really makes them work is the heart and soul of a community that cares and is vested in the future of the young men and women who make Park City their home. That's the spirit of Jan's Winter Welcome - arguably Park City's most popular social event and fundraiser for families who want to provide their children with the opportunities sport provides.
It's been over three decades since Park City Ski Team leader Bob Marsh approached Jan's Sport owner Jan Peterson with the concept. Today, 33 years later, Jan's Winter Welcome brings together a collection of locals and second homeowners who truly care about kids and sport. In a community that lives and breathes with its outdoor lifestyle, kids and sport are priorities.
Back in the '80s, the focus was on the Park City Ski Team. Today, 13 unique winter sports clubs provide opportunities for over 1,000 local kids, with another 1,000 getting an introduction to sport through the Youth Sports Alliance's Get Out & Play program.
The benefits of Park City's myriad winter sports club programs are well known. A young Ted Ligety found his way through the Park City Ski Team and on to Olympic and World Championship gold. Teen Sarah Hendrickson was motivated by the 2002 Olympics and found her way to the top of the ski jumps through the Park City Nordic Team and on to become her sport's greatest star.
Resort communities nationwide support their kids in sport. What separates Park City from those resorts is the great diversity of sport opportunities and the support umbrella of the Youth Sports Alliance.
But what about the kids whose families simply can't afford that opportunity?
Sport is more than medals. Sport builds character. It teaches respect and teamwork -- the value of working together. It brings valuable life skills to every participant. Last year, 220 Park City kids who couldn't afford to be in a sports program had that chance thanks to YSA's Dare to Dream scholarship program.
Youth Sports Alliance president Geoff Buchheister struck an emotional chord when he talked about the family with a single mom working multiple jobs to keep them afloat but wanted to give her kids the opportunity to participate. Or the family with the father battling illness who wanted to see his kids learn through sport. Or the hard working young woman whose own teammates saw her dedication and pooled their own families' resources to help her along with the scholarship fund.
As Parkites, we take a special pride in our community. While we joke about the number of nonprofits in our town, we get in line to support them. For 33 years, Jan Peterson has given us a fun night out, an opportunity to put on the bow tie for an evening and to bid on trips to Vegas and a ski day with Shannon Bahrke.
But more than anything, it's given us a chance to open our hearts, realizing the difference sport makes in a young person's life.
One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he's not traveling the world with the team.