It's My Life PBS Kids Go!
Celeb Scoop: Hannah Teter

By It's My Life on April 8, 2011 1:46 PM | No TrackBacks

HannahTeter.jpgYou may know Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter for her head-spinning half-pipe moves, but what you may not be aware of is that Hannah spends a good deal of her time and energy helping to shred child poverty across the globe.

Last year, Hannah teamed up with two friends -- snowboarder Gabi Viteri and surfer Monyca Byrne-Wickey -- to form a clothing line called Sweet Cheeks. Forty percent of the proceeds go to Children International, a humanitarian organization that helps poor children throughout the world. We recently spoke to Hannah about her dedication to the cause, as well as what health and sports participation has meant to her.

IML: How did you first get interested in the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: My family sponsored a child when I was growing up, so that's how I first got involved. I was really young and saw what a child my own age in another country was going through, and how we were helping them and their families. That gave me an awareness right off the bat, that 20 dollars a month can change some kid's life forever.

IML: Last fall, you traveled to Mexico to see the issue firsthand. Can you tell us about that?

Hannah: I went with Gaby and Monyca to see how our donations from Sweet Cheeks were making a difference with Children International, and to see their Game On program in action. The Game On program is where they set up a whole building where the kids will come in and they have a doctor, a dentist, medicine if they need it, nutrition classes for the parents, schooling for the kids, sports...all in one place. They show up and they get this whole slew of things they wouldn't get anywhere else. It's set up in a community of 20,000 to 30,000 people so they're big centers and there are a lot of kids that come through. It was amazing to go into these villages and meet these families, hear their stories and what they're going through, and how we're making a difference. They were mostly families that have recently been picked up by Children International, and we really got to see how it works and hear first hand from them. It was just incredible.

IML: What strikes you most about the kids you meet?

Hannah: You go in and these kids are just so beautiful and so smart, and aware of their situation but they're just the most happy, smiling kids. They have nothing but they're just shining so bright. It definitely makes you aware that material things don't make you happy, it's all about the connection with your family and friends and community, because that's all they have. That's what they live off of.

IML: That definitely gives you perspective. Why else is it important for young people to make themselves aware of the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: So they can be the changemakers. If they're aware of what's going on, then they can be the ones to make changes, because they're the future. They're going to be running our country in the coming years, and be our voices for change. If they don't know what's going on, we can't make any changes. So it's really important for kids to have that perspective and know the issues that we're facing so they can think about that kind of stuff. It also helps you appreciate what you have in life.

IML: If someone wants to help but they don't have their own money to sponsor a child or send a donation, what else can they do? If you're 10 years old and don't have a lot of resources, what can you do to help out?

Hannah: I think it just starts with your surrounding friends and family. To be positive. The simple things, like sharing and caring and recycling. Just showing their surrounding situations, the positiveness. That will just spread. It starts with a small thing and usually makes way more impact than you even think. I've witnessed many things that kids have done, from having a dinner fundraiser to a bottle drive to selling lemonade, simple things like that. A little goes a long way. Even if you raise $50, that's feeding a kid for a couple of months in another country!

IML: Good to keep in mind! So on IML, we talk a lot about different kinds of health. What does that word "health" mean to you, and how do we get good health in our lives?

Hannah: Health to me is a combination of things, from physical health to mental health to just overall well-being. There are so many avenues to walk down to be healthy. Definitely a huge thing is diet and what you're putting in your body, being conscious of it. What's in what you're eating? It's hard to know sometimes, especially in our culture. They makes labels so that you don't understand what you're looking at. Then, mental health is huge as well. They say stress can affect your overall health almost as much as what you eat. So keeping your mind positive and thinking helpful thoughts to yourself -- that's hard to do -- but definitely possible and it makes a huge difference in being healthy. And exercise, of course. Getting yourself out and moving!

IML: It's hard for us to remember that all that stuff is relatively easy, they just need to make it a priority. You've been snowboarding since you were 9 years old. What did being involved in sports mean to you as a kid?

Hannah: It was definitely an outlet to let out all the energy I had built up from sitting at a desk all day. I'd done a lot of team sports and I was lucky because we had mellow coaches who helped make it fun. It should always be about the fun when you're young. With snowboarding, I was lucky because it was a program my school offered. Every Friday, they'd take us up to the mountain and we'd be in groups. I'd be with friends and we'd just have the time of our lives. I remember starting, I was the worst one in my group. They'd all have to wait for me at the bottom of the hill. But over time I ended up becoming the best. It was just for fun, and my friends never cared who was the best. It was all about progression.

IML: Was there a moment for you when you were like, I really want to do this at a higher level?

Hannah: I kind of felt like that when I had done a few amateur competitions and did well. Then I was talking to my brother and I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to do the U.S. Open and get on the podium." He was like, "Yeah, right. You can't do that." That just fueled my fire. And I didn't do it the next year, which I'd originally planned, but the year after I ended up getting on the podium twice and winning a car. When somebody tells you that you can't do something, it makes you want to do it way more!

IML: You've been able to turn your success as an athlete into an opportunity to do some real good in the world. Do you remember what first motivated you there?

Hannah: When I was about 13, there was this one super special place that I would always walk to. It was a rock out in the middle of this meadow. This was before I started traveling for snowboarding. I had this feeling that if I were to ever make it big, that I would want to use my success to help out in the most ways I could. I'd go to this rock a couple times a week until I moved away from Vermont at age 18. I always had that feeling, then I ended up going to the Olympics in Torino and after winning there, I knew that it was the hugest platform to start something big. I just always carried that feeling.

IML: Lucky for all those kids and families, then! Thanks for talking with us, Hannah, and good luck with everything.

Hannah: Thanks!

Here's a video of Hannah, Gabi, and Monyca talking more about their experiences in Mexico:



For more information on Children International, or how to sponsor a child, visit www.children.org.






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