World Eskimo Indian Olympics brings volunteers across the country to Fairbanks
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Hundreds of athletes, dancers and artisans are in Fairbanks this week participating in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, also known as “WEIO”.
While there are many participants wowing the audience, there are also a lot of people behind-the-scenes to make sure the games, dancing, and other events run smoothly.
Dozens of volunteers are measuring jumps for officials, doing the heavy lifting, and braiding synthetic sinew for the ear pull.
Some of those volunteers travel quite the distance to be a part of these unique games. Pennsylvanians Laura Raifsnider and her husband Mark are veteran volunteers. They first received an invitation to join a friend on their trip to the “big games” for their 9 year wedding anniversary back in 2015.
The Raifsniders’ dream has always been to go to the World Games to celebrate their anniversary. The 2015 games surpassed her expectations and it became an annual trip. Laura Raifsnider said, “Our 16th anniversary is actually today, it’s almost every year we get to celebrate it at WEIO.”
The couple says there is a sense of belonging in being able to help out an athlete, or a dancer, or an elder.
Laura says volunteering gives him a closer look at Alaskan native culture. “It has been really neat to make a lot of cool relationships, build a lot of bridges, and learn more about the culture. And yeah it’s like our family. It’s like a family reunion.”
The World Eskimo Indian Olympics are taking place at the Big Dipper in Fairbanks through Saturday, July 16. More information on WEIO can be found here.
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