Sometimes it’s easy to forget that heroes are all around us. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.
We typically don’t think of high school students as heroes, but on one Friday afternoon in early March, hundreds of them were exactly that to 69-year-old Denver resident, John Thompson.
A longtime passionate swing dancer, Thompson stood at center court in the Cherry Creek high school gymnasium and grabbed his partner by the hand to dance his way across the hardwood and into the hearts of hundreds of people at a pep assembly.
The reason why Thompson was performing in front of people more than 50 years younger than him was to accept his wish from Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime.
Thompson has not been to his home state of Minnesota in more than 20 years. He’s on dialysis and resides in a health center.With the help of Cherry Creek High School’s Wish Week and Bloom’s Wish of A Lifetime, Thompson now has enough money to make the trip.
“At this age, you start getting a little cynical, and then something like this hits you over the head,” Thompson said.
A two-time Olympian and 11-time World Cup gold medalist in freestyle moguls skiing, and a former NFL football player, Bloom is making sure to use his platform for greatness.
“JBWOL Foundation is built on the premise that senior citizens should be respected, honored and aided in our society,” Bloom says through his organization’s website. “They have given a lifetime of service, wisdom and most of all love to their community and families. It’s not hard to see the challenges that seniors face on a daily basis. This Foundation will make lifelong dreams come true to seniors. I believe many people regrettably move on from this world with unfilled dreams.” – Jeremy Bloom
As we sift through NFL free agency, seeing players sign deals for $96 million or even $132 million, we forget that for the many players not making this kind of money, they need to find something after their athletic careers are over. Beyond that, they need to replace an athletic passion with another passion.
Bloom played football at CU-Boulder and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 5th round of the 2006 draft. He was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in camp. Then he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 to suit up for an AFC playoff game. He went through training camp with the Steelers in 2008, but was released before the regular season started. Just like that, his NFL career was over. No stats in the regular season, just a life to concentrate on after football (and skiing) was over.
Bloom is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in freestyle skiing history. He’s also got one of the biggest hearts.
“Seniors were always a big passion of mine, and a big part of my life just starting with my grandparents,” Bloom said.
Bloom grew up in Loveland and his grandmother, Donna Wheeler, was literally steps away from him for the first 19 years of his life. She lived in the basement of the house that Bloom grew up in.
“She’s a big inspiration in my life,” Bloom said.
Bloom’s grandfather, Jerry Bloom, skied with Jeremy when he was 3 years-old and just getting his mountain legs under him. Bloom’s parents were off skiing with his older brother and sister.
In so many ways, Bloom’s grandparents shaped him into what he is today. That’s why Bloom started Wish of a Lifetime. That’s why John Thompson will be able to fulfill his wish of going back to Minnesota.
“I’m going to have a chance to see old rugby teammates I haven’t seen for 40 years at the University of Minnesota,” Thompson said. “We are going to celebrate our championship. I will also see my parents.”
Just because Bloom’s skis aren’t touching Olympic snow, and his cleats aren’t gliding across a football field anymore, that doesn’t mean that his passion has to die down.
People may forget Bloom’s time in his first Olympic competition, they may forget how many yards he rushed for at Colorado, they may forget that one incredible play, but what he’s doing now? Well, people will never forget how he made them feel.
How’s that for passion?