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There’s ‘no place like home’ in Salt Lake

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HOMESTAY PROGRAM

skater

BUILDINGS THROUGHOUT SALT Lake City were draped with artwork highlighting various Olympic events such as this one depicting speed skating.


Remember the Canadian pairs skaters–Jamie Sale and David Pelletier–who were awarded silver instead of gold…and then, after an uproar, were given a gold? Their families were able to attend the Olympics thanks to the Athlete Family Homestay Program, sponsored by Samsung.

Salvationist Dave Willson facilitates this program. It is one of the efforts of his non-profit Global Events Group, through which he acts as a faith community coordinator.

The Homestay Program was born in Atlanta, when Willson and co-workers wondered what they could do to help the Olympic organizing committee. They discovered a need to bring athletes’ families to the Games and house them, families who would otherwise not be able to attend

In Atlanta, 1000 homes were hosts; of these, the Army provided 80%. In Sydney, Willson recruited homes from the faith community, and Samsung became the sponsor.

The Homestay Program became an official program of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Through the program, two family members of the athlete’s choice are provided bed and breakfast for eight days–usually the families provide more, showing their guests around and taking them to dinner. Employees of the program pick the guest up at the airport and introduce them to their host family. Along with free gifts from Samsung, family members receive tickets to the opening ceremony rehearsals.

Here in Salt Lake City, the first time for the winter games, 450 homes are participating, housing 900 to 1,000 family members. The winter games are smaller than the summer ones, with 80 countries participating compared to 200 in the summer games.

The host families are available to provide assistance and spiritual counseling. Their guests will no doubt ask them why they are opening their homes, and in this way the door is open for personal testimony.

According to Willson, the Samsung Athlete Family Homestay is “now an integral part of the Olympic Games. by bringing those closest to the athletes to the Games, the program adds to the heart and soul of this global event.”

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