Actress rides bobsled at UOP
With top speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, the Winter Comet Bobsled ride at the Utah Olympic Park is not for the faint of heart. Racing around curves at those speeds on the 2002 Winter Olympic track in that small of a sled can be tough on even the fittest bodies.
But, on Thursday, actress and television host Amy Paffrath suited up for a ride down the track in support of Kids Play International, a charity founded by Park City resident and former freestyle aerialist Tracey Evans.
As part of a charity dare to raise funds for a project in Rwanda, the stunt raised more than $10,000 for the nonprofit. Evans said she came up with the fundraising idea based on her experiences as an extreme athlete.
"As a freestyle aerialist, that kind of dare factor is always in the back of my mind — that adrenaline rush," she said. "For the foundation, I was just trying to think of something fun and unique to do for a fundraiser and the dare for charity came to my mind with all the Olympic sports that are up here to do."
Paffrath jumped at the idea to help a good cause and do something unique.
"I’m very much a daredevil, so any time it’s something out of the box — I don’t get to do this every day — that appealed to me," she said. "It’s a win-win — the kids get money for these great programs Tracey is implementing and I got to do something that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The money will go toward a project in Rwanda, promoting equality among boys and girls through sports, Evans said.
"The money is going to what we’re calling a field of opportunity for the kids in Rwanda for our Let’s Play Fair program," she said. "The program itself is using sports to promote gender equality between boys and girls and we’re working in communities impacted by genocide.
"It’s all about trying to use sports and sharing everything I learned through sports, as well as the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and fair play and being able to translate those into life skills and life lessons. These kids over in Africa and Rwanda, specifically, don’t have the opportunities or the resources. This hopefully allows us to provide them with a way to have a better quality of life and to understand boys and girls should have the same opportunities to achieve what they want in life."
Paffrath said she’s thrilled the stunt was so popular and raised so much money for Kids Play International.
"A friend had hooked me up with Tracey and I’m very much into children’s charities and any way I can help," she said. "That came up and I saw it and I was immediately in. Next thing you know, we were getting all the marketing ready and fundraising. I’m so grateful for everyone who donated. It means a lot to me to know people cared about this."
Paffrath admitted she was a little bit jittery at the top of the track. But, she added, when she was in the sled and moving, all that fear went away.
"I was a little nervous getting in it," she said. "Then when I got in it and sat down and [the driver] mentioned the claustrophobia, I kind of felt it for a brief second. My hip was a little bit jutted out and I was just like, ‘Mind over matter.’ Once we took off, it all went out the window, though. It was incredible — it was the most exhilarating 47 seconds of my life!"
She said her only worry during the ride was to not impact the driver, whom she was sitting directly behind.
"The toughest part was cramming in there, really," she said. "It’s an itty-bitty space. I’m not a big person, but you have to kind of weasel your way in there. And I was right behind the driver, so I didn’t want to knee him and risk us flipping over. I was just concerned about being in the way."
Evans said the event was a big success and she hopes to have more celebrity dares in the future.
"I wanted to do freestyle aerials, which we still may do in the summertime into the water [at the UOP jumping pool]," she said. "For the winter, I thought bobsled would be a blast to do. It was just a unique way to raise money and have a celebrity help us gain more exposure. It was awesome."
To learn more about the Kids Play International organization, visit http://www.kidsplayintl.org .
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Nine local athletes recently signed their national letters of intent to continue their respective athletic careers in college. Five of the athletes are going to college to play lacrosse, while eight of the nine have signed on to Division-One programs.