By: Emily Haggstrom Issue: Sports Section: Collaborator Profile
Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation
As a society we never have enough time. Time keeps on ticking. Tick. Tick. There is not enough time for family, friends, or our careers and definitely not for silly things like passions and dreams we had as children. As adults we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and our heads out of the clouds. We try to reach for goals hanging in our face like low hanging fruit. Tick. We constantly strive for balance. We compete in life’s struggles and hope at the end of the day to make enough money to keep ourselves and our families happy. Tick. Tick. And while most adults repeat their existence day after day; by 26, Jeremy Bloom had lived out his passion for football playing both collegiately and professionally, achieved his dream of going to the Olympics as a mogul and freestyle skier and forged a new passion shortly thereafter; starting a non-profit that even your grandmother would be proud of.
“Never underestimate the power of passion.” – Eve Sawyer
Jeremy’s passions bloomed early. Raised in a family entrenched in hard-work, sports and humility, Bloom spent his weekends chasing candy bars down the slopes of Keystone Resort with his grandparents and his weekdays throwing the football around the yard with his dad. Athletically, Bloom owes a lot to his father who taught him the fundamentals of football and helped take him as far as he could as a skier. By the age of 15, Bloom had made the U.S. Ski Team as a freestyle skier and was traveling to destinations across the globe. Simultaneously as his ski career was taking off, so was his career in football. After high school Bloom was offered a full ride scholarship to the University of Colorado as a wide receiver and punt returner, and at the ripe old age of 19 he became a World Champion skier.
It seemed as though Bloom could not be stopped, he was setting school records on the football field, winning the 2003 Freestyle World Ski Championships and attending school full-time. Under the rules and regulations set forth for college players by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Bloom’s status as a professional skier and collegiate football player proved to be the epitome of the association’s conflict of interest. In 2004, the NCAA declared him ineligible for accepting endorsement money from skiing. In lieu of his curtailed time on the football field Bloom focused his attention on skiing. He became the number one freestyle skier in the world and a number one moguls skier; earning him a spot on the 2006 U.S. Olympic team. Shortly after the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, Bloom flew back to the U.S. for the NFL combine and earned a spot on the 2006 Philadelphia Eagles roster after being drafted in the fifth round. In 2007, Bloom was released from the Eagles only to be signed at the end of the year by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In August of 2008, Bloom was released from the Steelers, ending his professional career in the NFL. Bloom returned once more to skiing, earning a spot on the U.S. Ski Team, but inevitably he decided at the end of 2009 to hang up his skis and retire indefinitely from the sport.
Ultimately, his decision was made about the time his latest and greatest passion was blossoming. He was walking away from his childhood dreams to fulfill the dreams of others through his new foundation, Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime (JBWL) established in January of 2008. “I didn’t give up a dream; I no longer dreamed about those things, it was a transition in my life. I think I was really lucky I was able to find something that I’m so passionate about and that kind of came in and overtook my passions before I was forced out the door. I was able to just walk away on my own.” Bloom didn’t just walk away with this new passion, he ran.
Although Bloom had never aspired to start a foundation, he was reminded of a time in Japan with the U.S. Ski team where a senior citizen was searching for a seat on a bus and three Japanese gentlemen got up, bowed and offered the woman one of their seats. “I was really struck at that age,” he said. Additionally, Bloom had been greatly affected by the bond he shared with his own grandparents and the model for his foundation began to take shape. “I wanted to change the way we look at aging and the way we look at those who have paved the way for us,” he said. The JBWL foundation was created to bring attention to low income seniors and to help them achieve their unfulfilled lifelong dreams. Bloom felt there was a lack of resources and opportunities for older Americans in lower income brackets. The seniors targeted are those that have worked hard their entire lives, taken care of families, given back to their communities, and have overcome obstacles and challenges. It was his hope that these seniors could live out one of their dreams and experience some of the feelings he was affected by when he had achieved his own dreams.
“When I find a passion I only know how to do it one way and that’s 100% and I wrap myself around it and it becomes me.”
Even through this tumultuous economy the JBWL foundation has seen huge growth, not only financially but at the partnership level. Since starting the foundation in early 2008 the calculated value through board engagement, a bottom line of money raised and spent at 4 to 1, coming into the black within 2 years of existence (a feat that is very challenging for most non-profits) and continuous wish applications coming into the foundation, it was not hard to see that the results were proving powerful.
Bloom and his all-star team had improved the health, happiness and quality of life for seniors.
As a testament to all of their hard work they began to garner support from organizations locally and across the United States. In fact, the response from outside organizations was so tremendous that the JBWL foundation staff of 16 board members, 6 wish committee members along with hundreds of volunteers expanded their reach.
Starting January 1, 2010 JBWL foundation has started granting wishes in all 50 states and hope to grant over 250 wishes in 2010. Wishes that will affect other seniors like Jerry who wanted a bruno turney chair installed in his van so he could regain the freedom that had eluded him after a terrible bicycle accident and brain aneurysm. Or a dare-devil senior named Lucy who had wished to sky-dive since she was 8 years old. The reach is widespread. Bloom’s foundation even found a senior that had been writing for over 25 years in the hopes of publishing her stories. The foundation teamed her up with a publisher and she is now coming out with her very own children’s book. Currently, the JBWL team is partnering with galleries to display artwork by seniors who have always dreamed of having their work displayed; and as a bonus the proceeds from these pieces will go back to the foundation to help more seniors.
Although measuring the affect of JBWL’s success is difficult, it is the attention they have received on behalf of older Americans that they are so proud of. A great example is The Seniors’ Resource Center in Colorado, whose mission is dedicated to helping older American’s. The Centers Public Relations Coordinator, Brandon Edelman spoke of the opportunity with JBWL saying, “He (Bloom) can help raise awareness for the services that we (Seniors’ Resource Center) provide and there is an opportunity to nominate some older adults within some of our programs for his Wish of a Lifetime.” Bloom is optimistic that by using these wishes as a vehicle of inspiration to highlight seniors nationally, who are accomplishing dreams well into their 80’s and 90’s; that the foundation will continue to attract more people to the cause daily, and to hopefully create a culture of change. Slowly but surely by creating this foundation Bloom believes JBWL can garner more of an element of respect for the senior population. And while money is tight for older twenty-something’s around Bloom’s age, they are the new demographic that can begin to initiate the way young adults view older Americans and to start giving. Bloom encourages young people to get involved through volunteering their time with the foundation, nominating seniors for JBWL or by simply interacting more with their own grandparents.
Blooms recent non-profit success has ultimately come down to building a great team. Through his experience playing football and his involvement in an Olympic sport, Bloom has learned to set goals and stick with them. He’s dealt with diversity, facing challenges and accepting failure to overcome it. By applying these principles into his work ethic he has created the ultimate business model. Bloom said that, “It’s about being around inspirational people who motivate each other and together do something to make a small difference in the world.” It was his hope to start the foundation without his name, but in the end it was added strategically. By lending his name to a great idea turned non-profit, Bloom has created more of an opportunity for his young foundation. “I am blessed that I’ve been bestowed with the talent to create a name that people know and the opportunity to have that name open doors.”
Although Bloom has a unique platform as a celebrity to open those doors, he wants the foundation to eventually stand on its own and be known for the wishes that they grant and the work that they do. “There’s a stereotype in the sports industry that people lend their names to things because it sounds good and raises publicity. Like anything else all stereotypes and generalizations aren’t correct. You have to dig deeper into it. Does it happen? Sure it happens. Is it what I strive for? Not even close.” As evidenced by the foundations continuous growth it seems evident that Bloom is focused on more than just himself. He’s taken all of the leadership and team aspects he’s been exposed to his whole life in athletics and combined them to create a perfect mission for the JBWL foundation. He is now focused on a stronger desire to help others. And with the support of his amazing staff, seniors can now accomplish their goals and experience that same feeling of accomplishment before the last…tick.
As I set to close out my interview with Mr. Bloom I can see perfectly outside my window, hundreds of snowflakes dance down onto a perfect blanket of white; shaping up to be another perfectly unique winter day in Colorado. A day Bloom would have lived for as a child, and that’s when I decided to ask him; if he could have one more wish fulfilled, one more dream of his own, what would it be? And with no hesitation in his voice he said happily, “All my wishes have been fulfilled. They continue to be fulfilled every day and that is a big reason why I want to continue giving that opportunity to other people.”
Emily Haggstrom has a B.A. in Journalism and Media from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a member of the Level One Society in Denver, Colorado and sits in on various charity committees. In an effort to impact her local community she also volunteers for Whiz Kids Tutoring, Inc. as well as Denver Health Medical Center.