To compete in the Olympics, an athlete must be 16 years old. But to Carissa Wolfe, an 11-year-old student at Lake Elementary School, her age is no excuse to miss competing in her favorite sport on the international level.
Carissa has been twirling baton since she could move and has stunned audiences with her twirling skill all along the way. The 2017 competition season has been especially successful for her. She currently holds the titles of 2017 Juvenile Miss Majorette of Ohio, Juvenile Great Lakes Regional Twirling Champion, Juvenile Miss TU World Majorette and Juvenile National Strut Champion. While competing at the AYOP National Baton Twirling Championships in July, Carissa’s outstanding performance in her solo, strut, 2-baton, and rhythmic events earned her the opportunity to compete for a spot on Team USA.
After more rigorous competition, Carissa was granted one of three spots for her age group to compete in Norway this March.
Last year, Carissa twirled with a chronic hip injury during the national competition. She competed well, but hadn’t planned to come out of this year’s competition season with such flying colors.
"It’s not really something we planned for," Shannon Wolfe, Carissa’s mother and primary coach said. "When they handed (the new Team USA members) American flags, that’s when we realized, oh my gosh, this is real."
"Before I made it, I didn’t really know what was going on. After I made it, I was freaking out and I was really excited," Carissa said.
Carissa has been dreaming of competing internationally since she was seven years old.
"To reach a dream like that so young is really something," Shannon said with tears in her eyes.
A trip to Norway to compete on the international stage is exciting, but it comes at a price. Carissa has been raising money for her trip since July, and her efforts continue. She has been selling bracelets that read "Wish it, Dream it, Do it," which has become her motto. On Dec. 2, Carissa twirled at The Hartville Marketplace to accept donations and selling the bracelets. On Sunday, there will be a benefit dinner from 4:20 to 7 p.m. at Grace United Church of Christ in Uniontown. Carissa will be performing along with many of her twirling friends, including The University of Akron Feature Twirlers. Spaghetti will be served along with an evening of performances and raffle baskets. Tickets are $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.
Outside of the fundraising efforts Carissa has already made, the community has been nothing but supportive of Carissa and her dream.
"More than a few times, there will be money in our mailbox just from ‘Anonymous,’ saying, ‘Put this toward your trip.’ That’s been neat to see," Shannon said. "It’s hard because there’s so many more things to donate your money to. This is a fun, once-in-a-lifetime thing."
If you’d like to donate to Carissa’s trip, you can send checks or cash to Louis Obreza, 683 Senn Drive, Akron, Ohio, 44319.