(Editor's note: Sections of this article have been revised in light of new information about sponsor support for Olympians.)
I don't know Ariana Kukors and I don't know her family.
I do know that the 2009 world champion in the women's 200-meter individual medley has been swimming competitively for 16 years and that her family—which includes two sisters who swam in college—has been with her every step of the way.
Extrapolating from that, I can assume that Ariana Kukors' family: drove her to about a million sunrise practices, sacrificed about a million Saturdays to attend meets, sifted through about a million college recruiting pamphlets and shared about a million different shades of emotion as she journeyed from child dreamer to Olympian, a title she earned for the first time at U.S. Olympic Trials in late June.
And for all that, it will cost the Kukors clan about a ton of money to see Ariana swim at the 2012 London Olympics. You can imagine the financial strain a family of five faces in the eleventh-hour rush to nab boarding passes, hotel accommodations and event tickets.
The Kukors are facing such a steep fee, in fact, that they've made a public appeal to help raise funds.
They aren't alone.
Kjell and Marni Larson, the parents of surprise 100 breaststroke qualifier Breeja Larson, have set up a website to help pay their way to London.
The Summer Games are a one-shot deal for most athletes, but there's a lifetime of sacrifice behind each Olympic story. One would hope that parents, at the very least, get a fair chance to see that story through.
Now I understand why US Olympic Committee can't go handing out cost-covered itineraries to every mama and papa with an Olympic connection. The USOC receives no financial aid from the U.S. government, and budgets are thin as is.
So here's a proposal: Hit up the sponsors.
Procter and Gamble, for example, pledged to help offset costs for moms of U.S. Olympians traveling to the London Games. According to a P&G spokesperson, the company gave each U.S. Olympian and Paralympian $1,000 to help with London-related expenses.
This is fitting, considering P&G has been pulling at heartstrings from here to China with their "Thank You, Mom" campaign, an homage to the motherly support that helps fortify Olympic champions.
The campaign's centerpiece is a television commercial that shows moms the world round doing typical mommy things—laundry, carpools, homework help, etc.—all while their little kidlets blossom into elite athletes.
And when the big day comes, some of them even get to see those same little kidlets take the Olympic stage—in person!
Here's a proposition for even more support, in light of the Kukors' and Larsons' plight.:
Companies could collaborate on an effort called the "Journey to London Fund" (working title) and promise that every penny toward the travel expenses of Olympic families.
Kick-start the fund with some initial capital and then bring a few Olympic partners into the fold.
Maybe P&G can donate 10% of every Old Spice sale to the cause. Maybe McDonald's will throw in 5% off every Big Mac.
The ball starts rolling and everybody wins.
The Kukors family wins. The Larson family wins. Everybody wins.
Best of all, Mom would be awful proud.
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