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US Olympic surfer Griffin Colapinto tackling mental health in his community through Athletes for Good grant

Team USA surfer Griffin Colapinto is looking forward to his next event this year, his first-ever Olympic Games, but he’s also excited about how he’s impacting his community as an Olympian. 

Colapinto was one of 20 Olympic and Paralympic athletes awarded a $24,000 grant from Athletes for Good, a joint initiative between Proctor & Gamble, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), that recognizes the efforts of these athletes to improve their communities. 

Colapinto knew the grant would go to the nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with mental health, addiction and more. 

“It’s incredible. Super fortunate,” Colapinto told Fox News Digital. “I think my mom put an email together, because you have to apply for the grant, and she put it down. Sent it in, not thinking much of it, and they ended up picking us, which is incredible.

“To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit organization that we are representing and giving our energy to. They’re pretty much about giving tools and supporting anyone that’s going through a hard time in life. Mental health seems to be a big topic these days with social media, and I feel like people have gotten disconnected from the source of where we came from. It’s good to talk about that stuff, be open, and there’s counseling you can get on To Write Love on Her Arms if you don’t have the money to talk to anyone, or maybe there’s no one in your life that you feel you can talk to. You can go there and open up.”

Colapinto, along with his brother, Crosby, explained how their own mental health journey through their professional surfing careers led to their connection with TWLOHA. The “Cola Bros,” as they’re affectionately known, use journaling as a technique to help clear their minds before and after events, and they started to sell these journals to fans wanting to go through their practice as well. 

US SURFERS GRIFFIN COLAPINTO, JOHN JOHN FLORENCE FEELING PATRIOTIC BEFORE OLYMPICS: ‘BEING A PROUD AMERICAN’

Profits from those journal sales were donated to TWLOHA. 

“I started getting real interested in mental health through surfing, obviously, and being a pro surfer,” Colapinto explained. “Just chasing a dream, chasing something that’s so challenging, you’re going to be dealt with hard moments throughout the journey. Through that, I started journaling, meditating and reading books. I ended up kinda just creating my own little system of tools to help me on my journey, and the journaling was a really cool one. 

“We were like, ‘Yeah, OK, it would be really cool if we could do something with the money that’s made from these.’ We decided to go with To Write Love on Her Arms and give the profits to the organization. From there, we started to learn more about it and what they’re doing. We’ve just got super psyched on it, and now we got a grant. So, it’s on!”

Colapinto also discussed “Between the Bells,” a one-week interactive program that’s free for students through TWLOHA to help them spark authentic conversations about mental health. He was able to speak with kids during an installment of the program, and loved what he saw. 

Griffin Colapinto walks with surf board

“Super rad,” he said smiling. “Each kid had a pamphlet, and on the pamphlet there’s all these different categories of questions to ask yourself, like how you’re feeling. Little things in your life like, ‘Did you brush your teeth this morning? Did you make your bed?’ All these little things you ask yourself that kinda contribute to having a good, clear mind every day. 

“Those simple little tools, those simple steps, if you don’t have the parents that taught you those, then it’s organizations like this that are there to take care of that for you.”

Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, mental health is paramount. For Colapinto, he says “the freer you are thought wise, the better you surf.” And while that will always be a challenge for him, especially with the Olympics’ pressure coming up next month, his methods of creating a clear mind are always helpful before he gets out on the waves. 

And those tools are what he wants everyone, especially the next generation, to have. 

Griffin Colapinto with headphones on

“I think one of the biggest things for freeing your mind is recognizing whatever thought it is that is challenging you,” he said. “Sometimes you get a thought or emotion that just keeps looping in your head and body. Through journaling, or through talking to someone like a counselor, you can get yourself to recognize that, and that’s half the battle. Once you see it, it’s easier to let it go. Then, boom, you’re free.”

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