Kristi Yamaguchi captured hearts over 20 years ago and she continues to inspire those around her. She has taken her popularity and fame and used it not for selfish endeavors, but to continually give to others. One way she gives back is through her Always Dream Foundation. She is a down-to-earth kind of celebrity who knows that she has been blessed not only with great talent, but a wonderful support system. She also realizes that there are children and families out there much less fortunate than her.
“All the athletic glory and honors are wonderful but sometimes I come face to face with a disadvantaged child or with a struggling mother or father and I am grateful for my gifts. And I rededicate myself to doing whatever I can to help someone in need. The good feeling I get from contributing rivals anything I felt on the Olympic stand in Albertville.”
But this 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist has done anything but slip back quietly and wrap up her career after achieving such success. She has continued to stay active, both on and off the ice, and being involved in programs which give back to the community.
In 1996 she founded the Always Dream Foundation, which is “committed to supporting programs that inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children.”
Although the Foundation supports a variety of programs, it has three main programs of its own: Always Reading, Always Striving and The Always Dream PlayPark.
Always Reading is a program with its main focus on early childhood literacy, which they believe is the foundation for a successful education. The program focuses much of its efforts to support children from low-income families and the schools and areas which are underserved. They incorporate both print books with e-readers and tablets for children which might not otherwise have access to those resources.
Always Striving is a program set up which awards an annual scholarship to a figure skater who shows “dedication, potential and character of an Olympic hopeful.” Kristi Yamaguchi, of course, has a soft spot for figure skaters, yet she knows that the costs can sometimes be a set-back for ice skaters trying to achieve their dreams. As a result, the scholarship supports these dreams by helping with the costs involved.
The Always Dream PlayPark opened in January 2010. This is a specially-designed, interactive haven for children of all abilities, even those with otherwise limiting physical, developmental or mental conditions. The goal of the park, which is located in Fremont, California’s Central Park, is to have a place where children of all abilities can play comfortably together.
Recently, Jennifer Cruz, the National Family Examiner, had the opportunity to speak with Kristi Yamaguchi about her Always Dream Foundation. Her enthusiasm and heart for what the Foundation does was evident from the beginning. She even shared a future goal of the Foundation.
“We’re excited to hopefully expand. Right now the programs are in California and we're hoping to expand nationally and into new cities. That's just kinda our goal for the next few years.”
She was also asked about her thoughts on what she thinks parents can do to nurture their children’s dreams, to encourage them to always dream. Her answer was simple.
“I think it’s really just listening to your kids as much as possible, seeing where their interests are.”
She states that she sort of took a cue from her own parents, who were instrumental in encouraging her, as well as her brother and sister, to pursue their own interests.
Kristi realizes that, for whatever reason, not all children have the support that she was fortunate enough to have. Just as her motto has been “Always Dream” in her own life, Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation supports programs which give children that same support and inspiration to reach out and dream big.
©2013 Jennifer L. Cruz. All Rights Reserved.
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