How GoFundMe Is Helping Olympians Get to Rio

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It’s hard to conceive of just how much training it takes athletes to qualify for the Olympics. It’s similarly hard to comprehend how much money it takes to support those efforts. GoFundMe wants to change that. The crowdfundingwebsite on Thursday launched a new hub that specifically highlights the campaigns of Olympic hopefuls.

Already, GoFundMe’s 2016 Olympics hub features the campaigns of 89 athletes who together have raised nearly $400,000. GoFundMe, which is dedicated to helping raise money for personal causes, is hoping the centralized hub will bring more attention and further funding to these athletes. Athletes who raise money on the site can campaign for as long as they like and withdraw their money whenever they’d like, with 5 percent of the funds going to the website.

Some of these campaigns are focused on supporting travel costs so athletes’ families can go see them compete in Brazil this August. Some are dedicated to helping raise training funds, which make it possible for athletes to focus entirely on their training and not have to worry about holding a job. Still others are dedicated to raising awareness and funds for specific causes beyond the athlete’s personal ambitions.

American breaststroke swimmer Chuck Katis, 23, for example, said he plans to spend half of the proceeds raised by his GoFundMe campaign on his training and donate the other half to Episcopal Community Services in San Francisco, an organization that provides services for the California city’s homeless population.

“Whether I struggle to meet my rent, that’s the easy part,” Katis said. “The people on the street in San Francisco and in Berkeley that you walk past every single day, they’re the ones who have it tough.”

Preparing for the Olympics is a double grind for athletes, who must spend the bulk of their days training while also figuring out ways to pay their rent, travel and everyday costs. This can be particularly tough for lesser-known athletes and those who compete in sports where endorsement deals and sponsorships are scarce. Often, athletes have to rely on the help of their friends and family or put as much work into their fundraising as they do their training in hopes of finding a way to make it to the quadrennial international sporting event.

“That’s a tough situation to be in, so thank god for GoFundMe,” Katis said. “It’s an easy way to be out there with your friends and family and hopefully expand past that if your story gets picked up.”

Katis’s story involves helping the homeless with both his swimming and his knack for magic tricks. Katis, who has thus far raised more than $8,000, said he will hold one big magic show at the Episcopal Community Services in San Francisco at the end of the campaign. Those who donate will be given a special link so they can live-stream the show if they cannot make it in person.

The breaststroke swimmer and magician has yet to schedule a date for his show, but he said he is hoping to host it after a quick little trip down to Brazil.

Katis and his peers will compete in Olympic swimming trials next week to determine who will represent the United States in Rio de Janeiro. “It gives me strength to know that swimming faster is going to help me feed more people in homeless shelters,” Katis said. “It’s awesome that GoFundMe helps me make that a reality.”

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