J.R. Celski – speed skater to philanthropist

Aug 19, 2010, 2:55 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Bill Gates challenged other billionaires to donate half of their wealth to charity. Now there’s a local sports celebrity suggesting young people give up some of their extra cash too.

I know, you’re thinking – what extra cash do teens and 20-somethings have?

“Realistically, if we get the younger community to be involved with philanthropy, think how much that would change the local scene,” says J.R. Celski, an Olympic bronze-medal speed skater from Federal Way. “We could do a lot.”

CelskiCelski is lending his support to a foundation local called “Team up for Nonprofits” which encourages young people to get involved with charitable giving. It’s one of Celski’s new interests, though he admits the transition back to Seattle after the Winter Olympic Games was “pretty rough.”

“It was interesting to see my life and how it switched back into reality. Going from before the Olympics, to the Olympics and then having this whole media blah, blah, blah thing, and at the Olympics it’s like ‘whoa,'” Celski says. “I’m back in the normal world now, and I kind of had to ease back into it.”

The normal world for 20-year-old Celski involves hanging out with friends, and enjoying life and the music scene. Celski started his own film production company – M.A.D. (music, art and dance) Northwest. His first project is a documentary about the local music scene.

Ryan Hodgson, an Aussie now living in Seattle, started the non-profit which produces musical events Gigs4Good. Event ticket prices are affordable at $20 and money from the concerts is then donated to various charities.

“What we really hope is that we’re able to bring people into philanthropy,” Hodgson says. And give them the change to “experience the gift of giving.”

Team Up for Nonprofits hopes to raise about $10,000 with each concert. An event tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe features Seattle-native Alex Mercier, whose style blends jazz, blues, rock and pop. Bekker, an acoustic pop/rock band from Seattle is the opening act. All the money raised will go to Seattle Works – a group that connects people in their 20s and 30s with volunteer projects in the area.

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J.R. Celski – speed skater to philanthropist