Building Houses in Mexico #USSAGivesBack

2015-06-16 10:32

The sunburned and sore athletes of U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding returned stateside last Monday after a recent service trip to Mexico. While happy to take hot showers after a long weekend of building homes, all they could talk about was when they could return and help another family.

The trip, led by Hope Sports and More Than Sports, was a three-day adventure in Tijuana. Together, 19 athletes built a house for a needy family, converting them from competitors to teammates.

Gus Kenworthy poses with neighborhood kids helping paint.

When the athletes arrived, they met the family they would be building for and toured their old home. The Dominguez Zacarias family is made up of three kids—aged 18, 15, and 6—and their mother, and they all lived in a small plywood shack with dirt floors, no bigger than a garden shed. After seeing the Dominguez Zaracrias’ previous dwelling, the skiers and riders’ Olympic-style motivation kicked in and they went to work. They took to construction quickly, learning how to use power tools, frame walls and paint. By the end of the day, the house had taken shape.

On day two, the athletes shingled the roof, installed electrical wiring and surprised the family with a shopping trip. The athletes donated $350 of their own money, which amounts to six weeks worth of wages for this family. After shopping, the Dominguez Zacarias family returned to home to a finished and furnished house.

The house comes together.

A coolest part of the trip was the camaraderie—not only between athletes, but with the local Mexican community. Neighborhood children came out to help the athletes with painting, nailing, and, during lunch, their soccer skills. The kids had no idea that they were scoring goals on a group of some of the world’s most elite athletes; they were just happy to make new friends.

Neighborhood kids laugh while painting.

“It’s such an awesome experience to see the neighborhood kids come out and help paint the house and interact with the family,” said Devin Logan over the sound of power tools in the background. “I’m stoked. It’s an awesome crew. We got the house up and ready and the family is so happy to move in.”

Faye Gulini, Jess Breda and Julia Krass pose with their hammers.

The weekend was enhanced by talks from Dr. Ben Houltberg—a renowned sports psychologist—and Dr. J. Ashley Null—a three-time Olympic chaplain. Both encouraged athletes to step beyond their latest results, and strive to lead a purpose-driven life.

“We gain a different type of balance that is needed to be successful in sport over a long term,” said alpine snowboarder and 2014 Olympian Justin Reiter. “I’ve had a long career and this is something that I wish I had when I started. The wisdom gained here, the experience, the memories and the friends I made by crossing the lines with other team members is something that I won’t forget very soon.”

The Dominguez Zacarias family smiles when accepting the keys to their new house.

U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding athletes wish to thank the generous donors who made this trip possible.


U.S. Freeskiing
Ashley Battersby (Park City, UT)
Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, CO)
Devin Logan (West Dover, VT)
Julia Krass (Hanover, NH)
Andy Partridge (Park City, UT)
Jess Breda (Marshfield, MA)
Darian Stevens (Missoula, MT)
Colby Stevenson (Park City, UT)
Alexi Micinski (Meridian, ID)
Birk Irving (Winter Park, CO)

U.S. Snowboarding
Eric Beauchemin (Grand Blanc, MI)
Chandler Hunt (Park City, UT)
Hailee Mattingley (Sandy, UT)
Julia Marino (Westport, CT)
Maddie Mastro (Wrightwood, CA)
Brock Crouch (Mammoth Mountain, CA)
Faye Gulini (Salt Lake City, UT)
Jackie Hernandez (Londonderry, VT)
Justin Reiter (Steamboat Springs, CO)

The teams smile with the other volunteers.


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