Athletes for Hope would not exist without the drive, passion and dedication by athletes all over the world to make the world a better place. In our Member Athlete Spotlight series, it is our hope that the public will get to know our athletes, learn about the philanthropy and advocacy work they’re doing and understand what motivates them to use their platform for good.
What is your name, sport, team?
Arielle Martin-Verhaaren and I grew up racing BMX. I did that professionally for 13yrs and through two Olympic cycles before retiring to coach the next generation of BMX Olympians. I now race mountain bikes and on the road so I kind of do it all on two wheels.
What inspired you to give back to your community?
My mom always told me the kind of person I was and the influence I had on others was more important than any race or medal I won. And I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which is very service oriented so that’s the environment I was raised in. Living at the Olympic Training Center I met other AFH members who inspired me with their service as athletes so I’ve had a lot of examples around me of good people who give back.
What cause(s) are you passionate about? Why?
Children! Kids are so impressionable and need good role models to look up to be inspired and supported to pursue their dreams.
What are some of the things/activities you’ve done in your community in terms of service?
I’ve been involved as a leader in the youth program for my local church and have volunteered at the local track for beginner league instruction and just try to help out the local kids at the track when I can. I’ve spoken at high schools and youth conferences and through AFH I had the opportunity to do children’s hospital visits in San Diego and Seattle which was really a really incredible experience.
What has inspired you or what has been your favorite moment when giving back to your community?
The hospital visits were the most impactful for me, those children have taught me more about grit and perseverance and hope than I think I could have ever taught them.
How did you balance being an Olympic athlete and participate in a service?
Balance is a struggle in every athletes life and now that I’m a mom it has become even harder but I’m grateful for opportunities AFH has given that allow me to reach out virtually so I can still stay involved especially in a pandemic world.
How has being an athlete helped you give back to your community?
Sports are exciting so it’s always fun to learn about feats of human achievement but what I think most people have enjoyed is hearing the struggles and how the hard work can be challenging and how it takes a lot of dedication to achieve the impossible, I think that inspires people in their own lives when things get hard knowing that it’s not just rainbows and medals in the athletic world, athletes struggle too and we don’t always win and overcome but hopefully the message we give them is to keep trying.
What was the first moment that you realized the importance of using your platform to give back?
I turned pro when I was 15 so I was still pretty young I think the first time a kid asked for my autograph I was surprised but that’s when I realized that I had a responsibility to be a good role model to others.
What is your advice to other athletes across all levels of sports who are looking to get more involved in community service/giving back?
Don’t be afraid to spend time giving back, it will be more fulfilling when you have a purpose and a cause to get behind outside of your own individual pursuits.
What does the future of your charitable involvement look like? What are your long-term goals?
I’d love to continue to work with kids and to have opportunities to teach about cycling and BMX and how the world of sport in general can give everyone tools of success for life as they set goals and work hard to achieve them.