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Gold medalist figure skater helps send veterans on memorable trip

17-year-old Lauren Kobley displays her Veterans Heritage Project book and figure skating gold medal.

PHOENIX – One would say the art of dance is a big part of 17-year-old Lauren Kobley.

What started off as a love of ice dancing eventually included ballroom dancing. It’s something she started doing nearly a decade ago and has become very successful in. She holds an honor less than 1% of figure skaters in the United States annually reach – earning a gold medal.

That’s why it was hard for the Scottsdale teen to be away from the sport a year ago after being injured in a brutal car accident that totaled the vehicle and left her with a severe concussion.

“It was a really tough experience for me … not being able to do what I was passionate about for a month or two totally killed my spirits and I was always down in the dumps,” Kobley said, adding she practices five days a week and gets up at 4:45 a.m. each day to skate before school.

There was a silver lining to the negative experience, however, as it allowed her to spend more time investing in another part of who she is – tapping into her rich family history of veterans and her dedication to giving back.

Her great grandfather fought in World War II and her grandfather served in the Navy. In fact, it was discovered by her mother and grandmother that a member of their family fought in the American Revolution.

Her mother has been a member of Daughters of the American Revolution since she was 18 years old.

Kobley and her brother are both members of Children of the American Revolution, an organization open to “descendants of patriots of the American Revolution.”  Kobley was the Arizona State President of Children of the American Revolution in 2018-19. Her brother serves as president of the Tempe branch.

Just before Kobley’s car accident, she started a project as part of her membership. It required her to choose an organization and help with fundraising efforts.

Kobley decided to assist Honor Flight Arizona, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that flies World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to Washington D.C. at no cost to see their memorials.

She put her full focus into the project and traveled to 40 different events around the state, giving speeches about the organization and making craft projects.

Kobley raised $21,000 for Honor Flight Arizona that sent 18 veterans to Washington D.C.

The experience of raising money for Honor Flight Arizona served as a healing experience for her.

“Going every weekend to see these veterans made me realize how lucky I am and how much they risked their lives for people they didn’t even know and how much we can all learn from them,” she said.

Kobley also had the opportunity to go on the honor flight as a guardian to the veterans.

“I learned so many lessons that I won’t be able to thank them for,” she said. “The most important lesson they taught me was that sacrifice is really contagious, like a smile. I try to live my life in that way. If I do service for other people, it makes people happy and they’ll do service for more people.”

Kobley’s dedication to serving veterans is a big part of her next journey, attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University to major in journalism.

Her love for the industry started as a sophomore at Notre Dame High School in the Veterans Heritage Project, which she now serves as the president of.

The extra-curricular organization tells the stories of veterans and publishes them in a book with other veteran stories from schools across the country. Yearly editions of the books are found in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. The 2018 edition of the book received the Community Service Hero Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

She has interviewed many veterans while participating in the club, including a veteran who was in The Hanoi Hilton, a Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War, with the late Arizona Senator and veteran John McCain.

Kobley will be published in three editions of the book by the time she graduates.

“I love the whole process of interviewing and writing the story and changing someone’s life,” Kobley said. “Being able to document their whole service experience, sometimes from their childhood all the way up until now, it’s an amazing experience that changed the way I viewed the world and other people’s lives.”

While pursuing her degree in journalism, Kobley plans to join the Arizona State University figure skating team.