When American Olympic athletes take to the slopes, skating rinks and other venues this year during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, they’ll be spending their nights resting in accommodations that were organized by a large number of volunteers, including Naperville’s own Debbie Mossburg.
The 45-year-old biking and running enthusiast has volunteered for the past eight years helping to create “Olympic villages” in Russia, Beijing, and London.
Mossburg’s volunteer efforts in Russia represent work that began three years ago regarding “housing and neighborhood stabilization” that were initiated months before any Olympic competition takes place.
“London is a good example, where more than 6,000 people will move into the 2,818 homes that were developed for athletes’ housing during the 2012 Olympics,” Mossburg said. “The developed area there on the east side of London was blighted, and over the next 18 to 20 years, there will be a lot of low-end housing that will have grown by then to house 50,000 people.”
The Olympic swimming pool in London is now a community pool, and there is shopping and easy access in terms of transportation, Mossburg said. The 2012 Olympics also brought the Westfield Stratford City, a 1.9 million-square-foot shopping mall that has come to be known as the “gateway” to London’s Olympic Park.
“The Olympic Committee always stresses the use and reuse of its venues, as well as growth and development and sustainability,” she said. “People now on the east side of London have places to shop, other retail options, education, and more housing.”
Mossburg said she landed her Olympic volunteer gig through friends that were already involved in the same program. She and the rest of her “team members for Olympic housing and development” have already turned their attention to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
However, Mossburg has other efforts to keep her busy. She is also a champion in the fight against cancer, a disease Mossburg herself has already battled three times in her life.
“I first developed cancer when I was 6 years old, and then twice as an adult as recently as two years ago,” she said. “After the third time, I wanted to do something to help other people affected by cancer, to give back and hopefully make a difference. So I started a fundraising effort we call ‘Bike Bald’ where we hold rides each month just for families and adults here in Naperville and raise money in support with Childhood Cancer Research organizations such as St. Baldrick’s Foundation this past September and the Children’s Tumor Foundation.”
Mossburg said her efforts were ignited by concerns she continued to discover regarding loss of friends, insurance problems, and the growing “controversy” over treatment issues either “not being covered by insurances or the increased need for research to find a cure.”
“I feel these issues have touched a lot of families and that we need to do more,” she said. “With cancer, I fought it and I’m a survivor. I get it. The bond between those fighting and have survived — both patients and those that are their supporters — is like no other.”
Assistant to the Director of Campus Safety for Transportation at North Central College Emanuel Pavlopoulos said that the inaugural Bike Bald event which took place this past September was a huge success.
“We rode a full distance of seven miles toward late September from North Central College to the Dorothea Weigand Park and back, and the college along with the city of Naperville pitched in to help out with this event,” Pavlopoulos said. “The event was a huge success and we raised just over $5,000. All of the proceeds went to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and all of the fundraising from the Bike Bald events throughout the year will go directly to childhood cancer research.”
Naperville resident Ellie Ewoldt, whose son Chase was diagnosed with cancer at 2½ years old, hopes that the Bike Bald efforts will continue to help others like her son who plans on attending future Bike Bald events.
“I met Debbie through my father, and she is a special person because she not only understands what you’re going through but she’s connected with research and hospitals,” Ewoldt said. “This is a ‘club’ no one asked to be in, but you couldn’t be with better people.”