Gregory, Make a Splash receive USOC Rings of Gold

Melissa Gregory (right) received the USOC Rings of Gold award.
Melissa Gregory (right) received the USOC Rings of Gold award. (courtesy of Gregory and Petukhov)


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(09/25/2010) - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) unveiled the recipients of the 2010 Rings of Gold awards on Saturday afternoon during the 2010 U.S. Olympic Assembly in Colorado Springs, Colo. Figure skater Melissa Gregory (Hartford, Conn.) and the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash initiative were selected as the year's individual and program winners, respectively.

The two annual Rings of Gold awards recognize both an individual and a program dedicated to helping children develop their Olympic or Paralympic dreams and reach their highest athletic and personal potential. The awards were inaugurated in 1996 and now return after a brief hiatus.

"It is an honor to recognize Melissa and Make a Splash for their commitment to the lives of children," Scott Blackmun, USOC Chief Executive Officer, said. "Through programming and personal passion, each is making a difference and not only supporting the athletic talent of young people but also teaching skills those children will carry with them for a lifetime."

Gregory, a 2006 Olympian who competed in ice dancing along with her husband Denis Petukhov, developed and facilitates Fever on Ice. The program combines ice skating instruction and academics while fostering cultural diversity, relationship-building skills and teaching children about the Olympic Movement.

Fever on Ice reaches middle school students in the Portland, Conn. and Hartford, Conn., areas. Participants are given homework assignments in addition to learning how to skate. Instruction, bus transport, ice skates, and ice time at the Koeppel Community Sports Center at Trinity College, are provided free of charge due to a two-year grant from the Hartford Board of Education and the State of Connecticut Department of Education. In March, the participants were showcased in an ice skating show alongside Olympians and elite skaters which generated funds for the McKinney Homeless Shelter in Hartford - a charity chosen by the students. Gregory is the first figure skater to receive this award.

"I am very honored to be acknowledged by the USOC and to receive the Rings of Gold award," Gregory said. "This unique program aims to inspire students, enrich and improve their lives, and engage the Olympic spirit through education. It is so rewarding to get to work with youth and make a difference in their lives. We are grateful for all the support that we have been given on this program." The USA Swimming Foundation created the Make a Splash initiative in 2007 in response to the fact that drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death for youth in America. The national child-focused water safety campaign aims to provide the opportunity for every child in the nation to learn to swim.

Make a Splash works by educating parents through a national awareness campaign, and by providing opportunities for kids to learn to swim through a growing network of providers. Currently there are 260 local partner programs in 43 states, and the initiative also focuses on ethnically diverse areas. To date, more than 500,000 children have taken lessons through Make a Splash local partners, and 22,000 of those youth received discounted lessons through USA Swimming Foundation donations. Through the program, Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones (New Brunswick, N.J.) annually speaks to and provides a free lesson to thousands of school children.

"It is a great honor to have our efforts recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee," Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming's Executive Director, said. "The Make a Splash initiative has grown significantly since its inception in 2007, and we find ourselves continually inspired to continue to expand our reach so that we can raise awareness and ultimately reach more children with the life-saving message of learn-to-swim. We'd like to thank our 260 local partners, who are our arms into local communities and we hope more organizations will join us and our mission to provide the opportunity for every child to learn to swim."

Gregory and Make a Splash were recognized during a luncheon on Saturday, Sept. 25, as part of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Assembly. The annual Assembly is taking place in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the Antlers Hilton hotel from Sept. 23-25 with more than 500 participants. Through this year's theme of "One Team," the Assembly engages the various members of the U.S. Olympic Family in meetings, workshops and presentations with a focus on fostering communication, cooperation and developing new initiatives.

About the Rings of Gold Awards
Inaugurated in 1996, the Rings of Gold Awards highlight individuals and programs making a difference in the lives of children by bringing the Olympic Movement and its ideals to the playing field. The individual honor recognizes someone who has dedicated his/her life to helping young people achieve their highest athletic potential, while also assisting them in setting goals and establishing the mechanisms needed to achieve personal success on and off the field of play. The program award honors those programs committed to nurturing and developing the Olympic and Paralympic dreams and goals of children, teaching America's youth valuable life skills, in addition to making a positive impact in their community.