John F. Russell: Chasing Olympic-sized goals while making a difference |

John F. Russell: Chasing Olympic-sized goals while making a difference

Someday, Paris McMahon hopes to become the first female ski jumper from Australia.

During Wednesday's Hitchens Brothers Ski Jumping event at the base of Howelsen Hill, the young 11-year-old girl from Australia competed on the K20 jump, but Paris understands the Winter Olympic Games still are years away.

But the story was the same for a long list of Hitchens Brothers participants who have gone on to become Olympians.

Paris is lucky. She lives in Australia, but her family visits Steamboat Springs each year. They make the most of the 37-hour trip by spending eight weeks in Steamboat and absorbing as much of our town's enthusiasm for winter sports as possible.

Paris and her sister Imogene, 9, spend their days on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area racing around on Alpine skis, but they recently have turned their attention to Nordic combined and ski jumping.

But not all of Paris' goals have to do with Olympic medals and Olympic glory.

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Along with Imogene, Paris has other goals. Goals that have more to do with helping other people deal with real-life problems that reach beyond the athletic arena.

The 11-year-old is hoping that in some small way, she can help. Before Wednesday night's jumping event, Paris and Imogene collected pledges to raise money to help a family friend whose husband is dealing with cancer, to help homeless people get back on their feet in her hometown of Canberra and to help a developing community in Kenya.

Like her own goals of someday making it to the Olympics, her charitable goals also are lofty.

The really cool thing is that all of her goals, no matter how large, still are well within reach, whether that's helping her mom's friend's husband beat cancer or someday wrapping a gold medal around her neck at the Olympic Games.

Her efforts already have raised $1,500 dollars, according to her mom, and she has set up a blog site at where she hopes to raise even more money for her causes.

For Paris, giving back is an important part of her everyday life. She understands how lucky she and her sister are to live in Australia and to be able to visit Steamboat Springs each winter.

Her family always has loved Steamboat. Her mom, Nicole, graduated from Colorado Mountain College, and her aunt is Olympian Kylie Gill, who trains in Steamboat Springs.

I can't predict that Paris and Imogene someday will represent their country as ski jumpers, or if their fundraising efforts will result in a better life for those they are trying to help. But I admire the fact that they can chase their dreams without forgetting about all the people who support them.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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