Steamboat Springs Hank Kashiwa believes many former Olympians like himself have more to give back to their communities, if only the framework existed to help them.
Now, he is putting much of his energy behind a nonprofit corporation that guides Olympic athletes in helping existing efforts to bring character education and conflict resolution to youth; efforts like "Don't Laugh at Me," founded by his friend and member of Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter Yarrow.
The new foundation, ACE, stands for Athletes for Character Education.
Kashiwa represented the United States in alpine skiing at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. Since then, he has become a notable sportscaster and producer of television programming about recreational skiing. He founded and became the CEO of his own successful ski manufacturing company, Volant.
Now that he's reduced his involvement in Volant to that of vice chairman, Kashiwa said he is ready to channel his energies in a new direction.
He said the significance of his own Olympic experience has become more important to him as he's gotten older, and he thinks there are many Olympians who want to be remembered and want to have an impact in their community.
"There's a pent-up desire in this group in society that's underutilized," Kashiwa said.
But it's important to understand the qualities that Olympians have to offer have very little to do with celebrity and everything to do with setting goals and overcoming challenges, Kashiwa said.
Kashiwa said he knows there are many outstanding organizations across the country already bringing messages of hope, self-esteem and respect for others to youth. It isn't his intent to replicate those efforts.
Instead, he said he wants to train Olympians to take a meaningful role in those existing programs. The training programs will bring many of the nation's 9,000 Olympic alums to Steamboat, he hopes.
Kashiwa said the idea for ACE came about when he was asked to become president of the Colorado chapter of U.S. Olympians. He said he wasn't interested in becoming the head of a social club that arranged ribbon cuttings and appearances at shopping malls. Instead, he wanted to challenge his fellow Olympians.
The purpose of the foundation is stated succinctly in its its mission statement:
"The ACE Foundation Inc. is an organization founded to work with U.S. Olympians in the support of existing programs that create a positive outlook on life for America's youth. ACE's function is to prepare U.S. Olympians with the knowledge and presentation tools to interface effectively with young people in American society and make a true, deep emotional and personal connection."
Kashiwa envisions athletes trained by ACE taking part in presentations to school groups as well as other youth groups like 4-H clubs and scouting organizations.