A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Lindsey Vonn retired earlier this year as the winningest female ski racer in the world, with 82 World Cup victories. Despite a career plagued by injury, she is the first female skier to win medals at six different world championships.
Here are Lindsey’s answers to The Sport of Philanthropy’s top 10 questions about her philanthropic work and the Lindsey Vonn Foundation:
What’s your motivation for giving back?
There shouldn’t need to be a motivation or incentive to give back, in my opinion. I do it because I have a responsibility and passion for helping others. I want kids to have the opportunity and means to do what they love to do. Through my foundation I give them the tools to be able to do that.
What issue is most important to you and why?
Bullying is a big issue for me. I have my own problems with social media, but for young girls (and boys) to go through that just disgusts me. Through my foundation, I work on confidence building, leadership and anti-bullying to try to turn the needle in the right direction. We should all be taught to respect one another, and at the very least, to be able to disregard and overcome bullies.
How did your personal experiences as a female athlete lead you to start the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which is an all-girl program?
It was important to me in a male-dominated sport that I take the things that I went through and how I rose above those things and share it with girls so hopefully they won’t experience those same things, or at least have the tools and confidence to be able to overcome them.
Can you share a particular success story about a person you've helped through the Lindsey Vonn Foundation?
Yes! Last year we held a camp in L.A. for my foundation called STRONG Girls Camp. There was a young girl who liked to skateboard and she thought her father was taking her to a skateboarding camp. So when she realized that she was actually going to an all girls confidence building camp, she, of course, didn’t want to go. But we got her to promise she would stay the first day and if she didn’t like it she didn’t have to come back. Well, she stayed both days and said it was the best weekend of her life.
I also got my friend Leticia Bufoni, a fellow Red Bull athlete and pro skateboarder, to come and meet her and give her a skateboard. It was an awesome weekend for everyone, but that was the icing on the cake!
How does winning an Olympic gold medal compare to helping a young girl achieve her dreams through your foundation?
Winning a gold medal and helping a young girl achieve her dreams are two different feelings. Winning is somewhat selfish in that I’m doing it for myself, whereas helping others is selfless! Both are great feelings — it’s like everything in my life has come full-circle.
How have you seen the Lindsey Vonn Foundation positively impact participants and the communities it serves?
We are going on our fifth year now and it’s grown so much. It was this far off dream and now it’s a reality. We’ve helped all kinds of girls across the nation and have had so much positive feedback. Now we’re working on building those communities and relationships so they will continue to grow.
What are your longer term goals for the Lindsey Vonn Foundation?
My long term goals for the LVF are to keep growing, reach more girls (and boys), and to then be able to watch those that have been a part of our programs thrive and eventually (hopefully) become mentors for new girls coming into our programs. I want to create a culture of positivity and a community that supports one another.
Who else in the sports world do you see as inspirational in their philanthropic work and why?
Definitely Roger Federer — not just because I just got back from the French Open :). But he is an incredible role model with such a big heart.
What advice would you give other athletes and influential sports figures seeking to use their platforms to create positive social impact and better the world?
My advice: Do it! Start from anywhere, do what you can, make an impact where you can.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you so much for spreading the word!