How to Make Your Olympians Feel Special and Supported

With so much of the world still in the grips of the global pandemic, and Japan banning fans and spectators from the Olympic Games, clubs have developed creative solutions to sending off their athletes for the biggest contest of their lives.

When the Tokyo games were postponed last summer, while not surprising, athletes and fans alike were gutted. Fast forward to this year and the anticipation of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics has been wrought with hesitation from the Japanese government. They’ve established the strictest of COVID guidelines, which includes the toughest component—no fans. Unable to travel to Tokyo, at Chicago Yacht Club we knew we had to find a creative way to support our home team, Roble Shea. Over the years we’ve watched Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea hone their skills on the 49er FX and become an absolute force on the water. The team has made Miami their home base in the last year, training as much as possible and preparing themselves for the Games. With all the restrictions, Team USA is encouraging all athletes to avoid send-off parties and limit their interactions with others. So, we asked ourselves: how can we celebrate this team without physically having them in Chicago? Zoom was an obvious answer, but there needed to be additional elements to make the night extra special and give these women a proper send-off. With Roble Shea appearing remotely, we safely filled Belmont Station with family, friends and the CYC community to celebrate where they’ve been and support their home stretch.



We wanted folks to be excited about seeing how hard these women have worked throughout their entire journey, and how that work has paid off. Part of our strategy was to document their journey: we displayed photos of the team as youth sailors and with CYC members through the years. We gathered all the red, white and blue decor we could find and made a festive setting. The cherry on top was a 7-foot-tall cardboard cutout of the team. It showed them on the Pan American Games podium, hand in hand with arms raised wearing their silver medals. Selfies were strongly encouraged.

With the Opening Ceremony less than 100 days out, it was imperative to also give attendees a sense of what being an Olympic sailor means and requires. Namely, funds. Steph and Maggie shared a rundown of what it’s been like this last year, and relayed what they expect in the coming months. The ladies gave a great presentation and spoke candidly about what it costs to meet their goals.

Through the wonderful support and generosity of attendees, Chicago Yacht Club raised over $30K for the team. We couldn’t be prouder and look forward to watching these ladies shine in Tokyo.