Bellefontaine snowboarder headed to Olympics
Friday, February 12, 2010
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
SPRINGFIELD DEANERY — When snowboarders take to the ice and snow during the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, parishioners at St. Patrick Church in Bellefontaine will be rooting for hometown boy Louie Vito, who is known for his dedication to giving back to the parish and local community.
The 21-year-old Vito, the son of Lou and Judy, members of St. Patrick, had barely finished a stint on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”, when “he got back on the snow,” in Salt Lake City, where he lives and trains, said his father.
Born in Columbus, Vito moved to Bellefontaine as a youngster, with his parents and older sister, Lindsey. Lou Vito owns a radio station in town, and his wife operates a Jazzercise franchise.
Since the family lived so close to Mad River Mountain ski area, Lou Vito said his son knew by the age of five that he wanted to be a snowboarder. He turned pro in 2006. Upon graduation from high school, he relocated to Utah to continue his snowboarding career.
According to Lou Vito, reaching the Olympics is a goal he and his son had from the beginning, but said the young man has stated that, “I’ll do the best I can and let the chips fall where they may. It’s out of my control and in God’s hands.”
That attitude is what “makes Louie, Louie,” said his father.
What also defines their son is a desire to help others, added Judy Vito. Amid the Olympic trials, Vito returned home after Christmas for the annual Rail Jam, a snowboarding competition held at Mad River Mountain. Vito organized the event five years ago and has donated thousands of dollars worth of prizes. The event raises funds to support the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and collects enough food to feed dozens of area families.
“People came this year with bags of food,” Lou Vito said. “The response just blew us away.
Another example of Vito’s generosity, which his mother said made her particularly proud, was his recent visit with a 12-year-old boy and his family through the Make-a-Wish-Foundation. “Louie gave him the hat he was wearing, the goggles he wears to train, T-shirts and posters. I was so proud to see the difference he made in that little boy’s life,” Judy Vito said.
Another proud moment came when their son qualified for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe Team on Jan. 23 in Park City, Utah. Vito finished with 800 points on the season after having secured two second-place finishes at the Copper and Mammoth Grand Prix stops.
“When I get to Vancouver, I want it to be an experience and really take it all in,” said Vito on his website. “You know, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I want to do well and put down a good run, but I just really want to take it all in and enjoy it and have fun.”
His parents, who will travel to Vancouver for the opening ceremonies and to watch their Olympian, are happy and grateful that he has this opportunity. Judy Vito said her husband told him to “remember who you are, where you came from and that this experience is a gift.”
“I told him that it doesn’t matter how you do; once an Olympian, always an Olympian,” Lou Vito said.
In Bellefontaine, posters declaring support for Vito hang in the windows of local businesses; T-shirts and other items are being sold to raise money for charity, and area residents are planning to gather at the historic Holland Theatre to watch the open ceremonies and cheer for Vito. Proceeds from the evening will benefit a project to renovate the theatre.
Judy Vito said the hometown support for the young snowboarder has been “unbelievable. After Mass we’re stopped by people who want to wish Louie luck,” she said. “Everyone has been just wonderful and we can’t thank them enough.”
The men’s snowboarding events are scheduled for Feb. 17.