HIGH POINT -- Jeff Richardson will get to see his little girl compete in the Olympic Games after all.
High Point native Heather Richardson, a 24-year-old medal-favorite speedskater, will compete in four events at the Sochi Games, beginning with the 500 meters Tuesday.
And her dad will watch from a seat in the Adler Arena Skating Center, thanks to the response of Triad business leaders to a front-page story about the Richardson family in last Sunday’s Greensboro News & Record.
Heather’s mother, Pat Richardson, planned to make the trip with her sister and three family friends. But even after taking out a second mortgage on their Elmhurst Avenue home, there wasn’t enough money for Jeff Richardson to make the trip, too.
Ed Price, who owns a real estate business in High Point, explained what happened next.
“ I got a phone call from my good friend, Alan Duncan,” Price said. “He had read all about it in (the News & Record). He called me Sunday night and said, ‘We can’t let that happen.’ It got me motivated. We talked more Monday morning, and the whole thing came together in less than an hour.”
Price said he and three others led the quick fundraising effort: Duncan, an attorney and chairman of the Guilford County Board of Education; David Horney, chairman of the board for High Point Bank and retired president of Mirro Products; and Nido Qubein, president of High Point University.
“ What we’ve done is very small compared to the way this family has supported their daughter for such a long time,” Qubein said. “She represents the best in American sportsmanship. All of us in High Point are proud. We were glad to respond, privileged to support this family.”
Jeff Richardson, who works two jobs, learned about the effort when he arrived Monday morning at Ilderton Dodge Conversion to start his day shift.
“ His boss-man called him into the office, and there were a couple other gentlemen in there, too,” Pat Richardson said. “Well, they had seen the Sunday paper, and they asked him straight out: ‘How much would it cost to get you to the Olympics?’ Jeff told them it would be at least $6,000. They said, ‘You’ll have your money this afternoon.’ Jeff called me and said, ‘Oh my God, Ed Price and them just came up with the money to send me to Russia.’”
The businessmen gave Pat Richardson a credit card number and told her to “take care of it,” she said.
“ I immediately got on the phone with the (travel) visa people,” she said. “That’s a process that usually takes about 30 days, and we had just two days to get Jeff a visa. I overnighted them his passport. There were some little problems because it’s an old passport and his last name is misspelled because of a typo. I talked to the people, and they warned me there could be some problems. But the man said it was worth the risk and to go for it.”
The visa arrived in a FedEx package Thursday morning. Daune Galbraith, a family friend from Greensboro who is also making the trip, handled the travel arrangements.
“ Daune got Jeff on the same flights as us going out,” Pat Richardson said. “He’ll have one different flight coming back, but it’s on the same day and we’ll meet up with him in Moscow.”
The group — the Richardsons, Galbraith, Tina Kiger, Tammie Powers and Jan Koontz — left Raleigh for New York on Saturday afternoon. They fly from New York to Moscow to Sochi, and they’re scheduled to arrive at the Olympics today.
“ It’s still a surprise,” Pat Richardson said Friday night, even though word has leaked out in other media this week. “I’m sure Heather doesn’t know her dad is coming. She would’ve said something to me, and she hasn’t. She’s been so busy, and she really doesn’t like to look at (media) stuff about her when it gets close to competitions. It makes her nervous, so she tunes it out.”