Olympians auctioning gear to support Empire State Games

A group of local Olympians have teamed up to auction off gear to raise money for the Empire State Winter Games.

During a press conference in Lake Placid Thursday, biathlete Haley Johnson and alpine skier Andrew Weibrecht announced an online auction aimed at collecting funds for the local effort to host the popular sporting event.

They were joined at the table by Jeff Byrne, vice president of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, and Kris Cheney-Seymour, a former coach and co-founder of Demong Designs.

Byrne explained that local Olympians have donated things like racing suits, jackets, skis, and more to the online auction in hopes of garnering more financial support for the Empire State Winter Games.

"We have a number of local athletes who have provided us with some of their wears - hard goods and soft goods - that they've used in previous years and in the Olympics last year to an online auction site," Byrne said. "The money raised - 100 percent of it - will go to the Empire State Winter Games. We're very excited about it."

Last fall, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced it would no longer be able to host the summer and winter games due to the state's financial constraints.

Less than 24 hours later, officials from across the Olympic region formed a coalition and saved the winter games, hosted annually in Lake Placid.

Municipalities, corporations and businesses have since stepped up to the tune of more than $90,000 to pay for the games, which begin next Friday with opening ceremonies at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

Byrne says Kris Cheney-Seymour initiated a movement to get local Olympians involved with the Empire State Winter Games.

"And really, in a short period of time, we came to the conclusion that an online auction site would be an exciting way to involve the athletes and provide them with the opportunity to give something back," Byrne said.

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