USOPC Announces First Mental Health Ambassadors, Support for Mental Health Initiatives

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee Wednesday announced its first two mental health ambassadors, Yucca and Gary Rieschel, to provide funding for the organization’s mental health programming.

The Rieschels provided a gift of $1.5 million to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation to support Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls. The gift establishes a Mental Health Fund to supplement USOPC funding for, among other things, “in-person and virtual counseling options for Team USA athletes, mental health awareness campaigns, background checks for prospective mental health registry counselors, as well as supplemental funding for athletes who require additional assistance.”

With the Rieschels’ funding, the USOPC will hire a director of mental health services and full-time mental health officers, as previously announced.

“Yucca and Gary have been deeply committed to Team USA athletes since 2013,” USOPF President Christine Walshe said in a statement. “Now, their commitment to athletes’ mental health and wellness will have a transformative impact on the USOPC’s programs and resources, allowing the organization to serve even more athletes in the mental health space and encouraging other donors to engage with Team USA.”

The Rieschels’ have been active with the USOPF since it started in 2013. Gary Rieschel works in venture capital, the founding managing partner of Qiming Venture Partners. He and Yucca have given to numerous charitable endeavors beyond sports.

The Mental Health Fund endowed by the Rieschels furthers recent efforts by the USOPC and USOPF to provide mental health resources to athletes. The USOPC formed a Mental Health Taskforce in April, involving athletes, coaches and mental health professionals that meet regularly to craft best practices and resources. In July, the USOPC hired three mental health officers, who are able to expand the organization’s bandwidth in providing remote mental health support and emergency action planning.

“The USOPC’s commitment to athlete mental health is being realized through a broad expansion of resources and a promise to keep mental health at the forefront of our organizational focus,” said Bahati VanPelt, USOPC chief of athlete services. “We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Rieschel family, and we look forward to putting their gift to good use by funding top-tier offerings in athlete care, wellness and self-help resources for Team USA athletes.”

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