Willie Neal truly believed that Change Begins With An Individual. He believed in the ability of each of us to become better people and believed that every person can make a difference. He felt that it was the responsibility of each individual, not someone else, to lead thoughtful, intentional lives and to get involved and work to make this world a better place for all. He embraced the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see in the world".
This excerpt from a letter that he wrote last year is a good example of how he viewed the world: "...the gift I cherish most is faith. Not only faith in God, but faith in ourselves, and those around us. Faith that we can accomplish anything if we dare to dream it, and faith that hard work leads to reward, regardless of how distant some of the anticipated rewards may seem to be. You know what else you taught me, which may be the most important lesson of all, you have taught me to care for those around me. Whether they are family members, or victims of a natural disaster halfway across the globe, you've taught me compassion and understanding."
Willie was passionate about family, life, skiing, politics, and the planet and he believed that we are responsible for being good stewards of the Earth and he was an overflowing fountain of ideas on how to accomplish this task. He did not believe in putting off until tomorrow the important things that he could do today. He didn't wait for someone else to get the job done and was not afraid of obstacles. He made no excuses.
While in high school, he was a decorated Nordic skier;
winning a record 8 Wyoming State Championships and earning a place in the Sports illustrated "Faces in the Crowd".
He represented the United
States in the 2008 Scandinavium Cup race series and was a multi-time
All-American skier at the Cross Country Junior National Championships.
He also served as a leader in his school and
community and was involved in community service; donating his time to
Habitat for Humanity building projects, community clean-up projects,
and school projects. He was passionate about environmental issues and
created one non-profit organization that focused on increasing of
environmental issues, making environmentally responsible choices, and
getting involved. He then created a second non-profit organization to
focus on his "No-idling" campaign.
After high school, he
spent one year Cross country ski training with the Sun Valley Ski
Education Foundation as a member of their Olympic Development Team.
During that time, he also became involved in politics. He represented
the State of Wyoming at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where
he helped make history by casting a vote for Barack Obama. He also
worked on the campaigns of Wendy Jaquet (Idaho representative) and Gary
Trauner (Candidate for the Wyoming congressional seat).
Willie & Senator John Kerry
He interned in the office of
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) prior to joining the Maine Winter Sports
Club. He hoped to compete in the 2010 Biathlon Junior World
Championships before matriculating in February 2010 at Middlebury
On June 21, 2009, he was roller-ski training in
Northern Maine when he was struck from behind and instantly killed by a
young driver who reached for his cell phone.
The Willie Neal
Environmental Awareness Fund was established as a means by which
Willie's passion, projects, and his many ideas for change can be
continued and expanded.