WASHINGTON (CNS) — After a sprint, a cartwheel and one, two, three twists in the air, Jordyn Wieber landed precisely on the mat.
On July 31 Wieber, 17, earned a near flawless score on the vault — her score proved to be a major contribution to USA's women's gymnastics team's gold medal victory over Russia.
In the stands were her parents, Rita and David, who made it to the 2012 Olympics in London to watch their daughter in no small measure because of the help of their home parish in Michigan, St. Jude Catholic Parish in DeWitt, in the Diocese of Lansing.
Tickets for the women's gymnastics competition can cost thousands of dollars, causing some Olympic families to watch from their living rooms as their daughters perform.
But parish office manager Christina Simon told Catholic News Service that the St. Jude community wasn't going to let that happen and she organized a fundraiser to help cover the estimated $40,000 cost of sending the Wieber family to London.
“We'd watch her over the years progress and progress and become quite the little star,” said Simon in a telephone interview, “so as she traveled more we asked Rita if we could do anything to help the family see Jordyn. Her siblings haven't seen her compete in more than three years because it was so expensive.”
Wieber was baptized at St. Jude and has been at the parish her entire career as a gymnast.
The teen told Faith magazine, Lansing's diocesan publication, that there is more to life than gymnastics.
“I like to look at my gymnastics ability as a great gift from God,” she said. “Without God in my life, I feel like there would be no meaning.”
In the magazine interview, she also credited her mother and father with giving her strong faith.
“My parents have always made going to church as a family important,” Wieber said. “Sometimes we have to split up due to our schedules, but most of the time we are able to get to Mass together. It's a very special family time and it means a lot to me.”
Simon's fundraiser drew more than 1,000 people to support Wieber, who barely managed to fit the fundraiser into her schedule just before leaving for the Olympics. One family came from as far as Indiana.
Different T-shirts were sold, including a popular “Wieber Fever” shirt mirroring the enthusiasm for teen idol Justin Bieber. So many were sold that “a good portion of DeWitt now owns a shirt in one way or another,” Simon told CNS.
Also popular were her autograph on 5-by-7 cards that were being sold. Some kids even came with Corn Flakes boxes with Wieber's image in hopes of getting her autograph.
“Jordyn was amazed,” said Simon. “We didn't know if 35 people would show up.”
After expenses, the fundraiser managed to bring in more than $11,000, far exceeding expectations. Coupled with proceeds from a local golf club's own fundraiser, about $20,000 was donated to the Wieber family.
— By Daniel Linskey, Catholic News Service