Some members of the US Speedskating team help fill bags with food for families in need as part of USANA’s Kids Eat program in West Valley City. (Mark Wetzel, KSL TV)
WEST VALLEY CITY — For some people, it always seems like a race.
“I’m not holding anyone up!”
“You slowing down over there?”
“I was, like, six bags up on you!”
Those are just some of the comments overheard recently during an event to fill bags with food at USANA’s corporate headquarters in West Valley City.
Of course, those doing the bagging are ultra-competitive. That’s why a few of them are Olympians.
“Just, all the time. Night and day. We’re always on,” said Mia Manganello-Kilburg with a laugh.
That mindset is what helped Manganello-Kilburg to win a Bronze Medal in longtrack speedskating during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
It’s also a big reason why she wanted to give back, even if her competition on this day was just for fun.
“These boys are running laps around me, but the kids are getting fed, so it’s worth it,” she said.
The US Speedskating team has been partners with USANA for about 20 years.
Since USANA always supports what the team does, US Speedskating figured why not support USANA’s Kids Eat program by having some athletes fill bags with food that will be delivered to families.
“We’ve got programs all over the world, but this is the one we do locally where we really try to pinpoint those kids who are food insufficient at home,” said Michelle Benedict, who is the director of USANA’s Kids Eat program.
Many children rely on schools to provide lunches during the year, but with summer break that’s no longer an option.
This program helps fill that gap as well as throughout the year.
“We hear stories all the time about kids who are dealing with homelessness, kids whose families just came upon hard times, with a job loss or a parent passing away,” said Benedict.
So, even though these athletes are busy training, like Emery Lehman trying to make his third Olympics in Beijing, many skaters took some time to fill bags with all sorts of food that will go to kids who need it.
“Every time we come here, it’s like, you realize how many people need this food,” said Lehman. “I’m fortunate enough to not even know about that, but not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and I like to help out where I can.”
Some athletes have even started volunteering at USANA on their own time.
“Some athletes really started to feel the pull on their own and approached me and asked if they could do some time on their own,” said Andrea DiCristoforo, who is the marketing manager for US Speedskating. “We know our athletes are always trying to do stuff in our backyard and this is a way for them to get involved.”
It’s nice to give back. At the end of the day, we only do a sport.
–Emery Lehman, Olympic athlete
Besides, when it comes to getting food to children, the faster the better.
“We’ve always said, if we ever get in a bind and we need bags packed, we will call the speedskaters because they come in and they just tear it apart,” Benedict said with a smile.
Even with a packed schedule, the athletes say it’s this kind of packing that’s maybe even more important.
“It’s nice to give back,” said Lehman. “At the end of the day, we only do a sport.”