Lou Ann Botsford has only been a licensed massage therapist since 2007, but she was already teaching massage by 2009 and, in 2012, she got a chance to work with top athletes at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo. One thing led to another – connections made in Colorado earned her a spot on the support team for the Olympic U.S. Mens Ski Jumping team that's heading to Sochi, Russia, in February.
It's kind of ironic.
In an earlier life, Botsford brought Safety Town to East Greenwich, a weeklong program for children just about to start kindergarten that teaches them all about street safety, bike safety, police, and fire.
Now, she'll be helping support athletes who ski at great speeds down a dizzyingly steep ramp so they can then ski off a lip at the end of the ramp, soar into the air and – somehow – land smoothly.
Not quite what they teach at Safety Town.
But, as Botsford has learned, for these athletes, ski jumping "is second nature."
They start when they are little kids, using smaller ramps and lower jumps, she said. Over time, the inclines get steeper and the jumps, higher.
In a way, Botsford is still providing the safety component – in getting rid of athletes' aches and pains, she's helping them focus on their performance.
Massage therapy helps athletes recover from the last event and get ready for the next once and it reduces the risk of injury – "I'm giving them one less thing to worry about," Botsford said. "It's a small role but important…. It's all about recovery and readiness."
As for what the ski jumpers do, "it's pretty amazing to watch," she said.
So when Botsford was invited to be a member of the ski jumping support team, "I didn't ask how much this was going to cost – I said, 'Yes!'"
It turned out the costs are not small. So far, she's spent $3,500 on airfare, a visa, and accommodations, to say nothing of lost wages from being away from her private massage therapy practice, Finish Line Massage in Cranston.
When she told friends about Sochi, they immediately decided to raise donations to help her cover the costs.
"Lou Ann has been my friend for many years. During all this time, she has struck me as one of the most generous and giving people I know," explained Holly Barton, who, along with Bill Gianninni, has led the fundraising efforts. "She has participated in numerous charity fundraisers through her cycling and triathlon events. She also volunteers her considerable talents at events like the Boston Marathon and for the Wounded Warrior Project."
There will be a fundraiser at Natale's Deli on South County Trail on Jan. 26 from 3 to 6 p.m., with a suggested donation of $25. If you are interested in donating but won't be able to attend the fundraiser, you can contact Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org.