Give them wings and watch them fly |

Give them wings and watch them fly

Sarah Hendrickson, who jumped at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, will be joined by her U.S. teammates at the Women s Ski Jumping USA gala at Montage Deer Valley on Thursday, July 17. (Photo courtesy of Women s Ski Jumping USA)

Though soaring through the air for more than 100 meters is certainly difficult, for the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping team and Women’s Ski Jumping USA, some of the hardest work – fundraising – is primarily done in the summer.

On July 17, at Montage Deer Valley, WSJ-USA will host its annual fundraiser, this year titled "Give Them Wings and Watch Them Fly."

The organization is hoping this year’s event will be bigger than in years past due to three main reasons – the exposure from competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for the first time, the introduction of a new executive director and the formation of a new development program called Fly Girls.

WSJ-USA president Deedee Corradini said the fundraising aspect of the gala has taken on a new importance this year.

"It’s more critical than it’s ever been," she said. "We have lost one of our major sponsors because it’s post-Olympics. Yet, this is at a stage in our development where we have to grow to keep Olympians in the pipeline."

After Executive Director Robbie Beck stepped down, the organization brought in new Executive Director Melissa Brooke, who has a background in both the corporate and nonprofit world.

"We just have to make sure we have the money in place," Brooke said. "It’s not cheap to get on the World Cup circuit and all the events are primarily in Europe. My job is to make sure we have that money in place and we have sponsors in place.

"My role is really continuing to raise awareness for the brand itself. We have this fabulous story of female empowerment and getting the sport into the Olympics – how do we take that to the next level and look at the big picture?"

Olympian Sarah Hendrickson, who will speak at the gala, said the team needs support now more than ever.

"It’s really important," she said. "A lot of people see our team’s story as being over. We won the fight and got into the Olympics, but now our new focus is raising the next generation of jumpers and preparing for [the 2018 Winter Olympics in South] Korea."

Corradini said the group was lucky to have Beck at the helm, but they’re also looking forward to seeing what Brooke can do.

"Robbie was phenomenal in getting us through the Olympics and into this summer," she said. "We’re so grateful to have had her.

"We’re ready now to take our organization to the next level – we’ve come a long way in the last 10 years."

Now, as Hendrickson mentioned, the challenge becomes maintaining the elite level the team has achieved. That’s the reason some of the proceeds from the July 17 gala will go toward funding the Fly Girls development program.

By allowing younger jumpers to work alongside Olympians, including Lindsey Van (who is rehabbing from an ACL injury), WSJ-USA hopes to keep building outstanding jumpers.

"[Lindsey]’s been really awesome with dedicating her time to the girls when she’s not rehabbing," Hendrickson said. "It’s really awesome – I remember when Lindsey helped me when I was around that age."

"[The program] is going really well," Brooke added. "I was just up at the Olympic Park watching them jump – the level of enthusiasm and engagement is very high. They’re building relationships with each other – I definitely noticed that. To see what they’re learning from [Van and national team head coach] Alan [Alborn] is exciting."

In order to keep programs like Fly Girls running and to keep multiple athletes traveling the World Cup circuit, Corradini encourages Parkites to come support the local athletes.

"Our Olympians are the only homegrown team that’s 100 percent Parkites," she said. "We need to support our home team here. There are so many fundraisers we’re competing with, so we do ours a little differently. We throw a great party – there’s no sit-down dinner. There’s fabulous food and it’s just a real party."

The annual gala will run from 6 to 9 p.m. on July 17 at Montage Deer Valley. Tickets to the event cost $175 (with discounts available for those purchasing two or more tickets). To purchase a ticket, donate or find more information about Women’s Ski Jumping USA, visit .

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