Teter using her fame for charity | AspenTimes.com

Teter using her fame for charity

John Marshall
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Olympic Snowboarder halfpipe champion, Hannah Teter of Belmont, Vt., is photographerd in Aspen, Colo. during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Ski Area near Aspen, Colo. on Saturday, Jan., 26, 2008. Teter turned 21 Saturday, and will celebrate with her friends and family while in aspen. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

ASPEN, Colo. ” The Life of Hannah is about acting silly, hamming it up for the cameras, doing maple syrup shots on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” wearing a tank top and falling on the ice during a victory lap.

The Life of Hannah is filled with yoga mats and candles, piles of hats and lots of syrup.

There’s also a more contemplative side in the Life of Hannah, praying with monks, sponsoring impoverished Kenyan villages, speaking with genocide survivors from Darfur.

Hannah Teter can still be zany, the life-of-the-party girl everyone sees on television and in magazines. But she has also matured, become more aware of the world and the people around her, realized that what she does on a snowboard allows her to serve a higher purpose off it.

“A couple years ago I was just snowboarding and loving that, but I’ve got all this other stuff I’m getting into and involved with, kind of reaching out and just trying to be a part of,” Teter said. “It’s really cool.”

Wearing an oversized white jacket, bright sky blue snow pants and a purple knit hat (one of the top 10 she brings with her on the road) with wire-rimmed glasses perched on top, Teter leaned forward on a couch, eyes burning with intensity as she talked about the Life of Hannah on the eve of her 21st birthday.

There were flashes of that youthful exuberance she’s known for, stretching out words for emphasis, talking about getting her dance shoes on for her birthday party later that night. But mostly Teter was serious, thoughtfully discussing her duty as a humanitarian and role model.

“Since I was young I always kind of had the idea that if I ever make it big at something or do well at something, I would want to give back because not many people have the opportunity to do cool things,” Teter said. “For me, snowboarding has been such a gift the past 11 years I’ve been doing it and I’ve always kind of had that inner drive to reach back out.”

Teter’s opportunity came at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

She had been in the spotlight before, bursting onto the snowboarding scene as a precocious 16-year-old in 2003, winning a Winter X gold in the superpipe a year later, when she fell hard on the snow during the tank-top victory lap.

But it wasn’t until two years later, when Teter stood at the top of the halfpipe in Bardonecchia, knowing she was going to win gold, that she realized her dreams of helping others were finally going to come true.

“Before I dropped in, I felt this was my opportunity to be that role model or be that person kids look up to because it elevates you to another position,” she said.

Teter’s Olympic gold made her one of the most popular women’s athletes in the world. She appeared on the cover of magazines, in commercials, on talk shows, including the memorable maple syrup shot appearance with Kimmel.

Everyone wanted a piece of Teter and she loved it, in part because it was so much fun, but most because it meant she could start giving back.

Later that year, she launched a line of Vermont syrup ” her family had made it for years ” called Hannah’s Gold, and donated the profits to World Vision, a Christian relief organization that helps impoverished families around the world.

That wasn’t good enough for Teter, though.

Wanting to know exactly where the money was going, she worked with organizers to sponsor an entire village so she could keep track of the progress. Teter picked out Kirindon, Kenya, and now she’s donating all of her prize money to the village and hopefully others in Africa.

Teter also participated in a program called the Go Overboard Challenge book tour, traveling the country to give motivational speeches to children. The program also offers $1,000 grants to help young people start programs that will benefit their communities.

And last summer, after reading about the atrocities in Darfur, Teter became involved with the Darfur Olympic Torch Relay, a campaign that urges China to stop genocide in the African nation. Teter made an appearance on behalf of the organization and could barely make it through her short speech after hearing the stories of six genocide survivors.

It’s the side in the Life of Hannah few people see, but the once that’s most fulfilling to her.

“This other side kind of started after the Olympics; we wanted to start this charity, we wanted to help this town, then there’s Darfur and meeting all these survivors,” Teter said. “It’s been a whirlwind, but I feel like it’s going to keep progressing and hopefully I just keep on my game and stay on the top of snowboarding, and keep being that positive role model and reach out to all these humanitarian efforts.”

Of course, there’s still plenty of time to have fun. Like her birthday party, which, in typical Teter fashion, will include a raffle and suggestions for donations to charitable causes.

“It’s going to be a big dance party,” Teter said. “Everyone’s going to get their dance on. I brought my dancing shoes from Tahoe to Park City to LA to Europe to here and I haven’t worn them yet. I’ve been saving them for tonight. They’re ready to go.”

It’s certainly a good life, Hannah.

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