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Tita Ford: Loading for Gold

Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

 

 

For this month’s member profile we sit down with Tita Ford. Tita is a long-time member who volunteers her time to help load for our Paralympic athletes including 2016 Bronze Paralympic Medalist McKenna (Dahl) Geer. 

Tita and her husband, Bill Ford, have both been volunteering for over four years, and we cannot thank them enough for their dedication to help our Paralympic Athletes train and achieve their dreams.

 

 

How long have you lived in Colorado? 

I’ve lived in Colorado for the past 28 years. My husband, Bill, served in the military. We spent many years overseas and when we ended up here, we decided to stay.   

 

So how did you get started as a volunteer loader for our Paralympic team? More specifically, how did you get paired with McKenna?  

I’ve been a teacher my entire life and was getting ready to retire. I had been volunteering with a gymnast at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, and after that I volunteered with USA Swimming. One day, Mike Beagley (Manager of Community Relationships) asked, “Would you like to meet this young girl, Mckenna?” I said yes and met her over lunch. She was beautiful, spunky, and I remember she showed me her medal. It was the start of one of the most wonderful and special journeys of my life.   

  

What does it mean to be McKenna’s loader? 

My goal as a loader is to help McKenna achieve her goals.  

Someone was taking her picture and she asked me to get in the frame. I said, "No, no you’re the only one who should be in the photo." That’s when McKenna looked at me and said, “You are an extension of me.”  

  

When you first started loading for McKenna were you nervous? 

Oh yes. My biggest fear was dropping a pellet. McKenna is a great teacher and calms me down every time. At first, I made faces. I smiled with all my teeth when she shot a 10.9 and sort of frowned when she shot something like a 10.1. McKenna taught me to stay calm.  

I still get nervous during competitions, but its a combination of excitement and adrenaline.   

 

Your husband Bill is also a volunteer loader, how did that come about?  

Like I said earlier, the second I met McKenna, we clicked. My husband helped load for Stetson, another Paralympic athlete, and he really liked it.  Bill now loads for McKenna a couple times a week. He admires the fact that she is so disciplined.   

Bill and I have been married for 46 years, and McKenna has become part of our family 

  

How many hours a year would you say you spend volunteering your time? 

I volunteer about 15 hours a week for training, plus local competitions. I don’t travel with Mckenna to out-of-town competitions, but I’d like to travel on my own to watch McKenna from the crowd.  

At least I’d be able to make my faces from the stands.   

  

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in volunteering, specifically helping load 

Try it. It will give you a new perspective, and it’s humbling.  When I am with McKenna, the world melts away, and I always leave the OPTC feeling happy. This opportunity doesn’t just impact me, but it’s impacted all those who have this opportunity. 

I would challenge young people to get involved in some way. Volunteering helps build the community and promotes inclusion. 

 

What has been the greatest learning experience? through all those hours of volunteering with McKenna?  

One of the most difficult things for me was I did not know how much help she needed. I remember her saying to me one time, “I’ll ask you when I need help.” I learned to step back and waited for her to tell me when she needed help.  

Communication is important. We’re both straightforward people. McKenna is a teacher at heart. I admire her discipline, her passion, her perseverance, and her resilience. She will not stop, and that's what makes her a great athlete.   

  

So, you’re not stopping anytime soon?  

Oh no.

I hope that the program grows and expands because there has been so much positive change lately. Will Anti had a lot to do with that in the past year, and I believe that it will continue with Matt Suggs.  

 

 

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