A tribute to our daughter, sister and friend
Mari-Rae Sopper
Life and DreamsMemories9112001Memorial FundLinks

“Mari-Rae is an unrelenting force, hungry for excellence . . . I know last Tuesday she entered heaven and she went in full force.”

Mike Sharples
Mari-Rae’s Gymnastics Coach
at Iowa State University
September 17th, 2001

Mari-Rae Sopper was following her dream to California on September 11th, 2001 to start a new job as head coach of the Women’s Gymnastics Team at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). That fateful morning, her flight, American Airlines Flight 77, was hijacked as part of an attack on America, and the plane was purposefully crashed into the Pentagon.

The Latest

Within Her Grasp, a new book about Mari-Rae, is available now! Find it at createspace.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Check out the video trailer too.

Within Her grasp book cover Mari-Rae didn’t need an alarm or coffee to be up and peeking out of her friend’s upscale DC condo before dawn on this beautiful Tuesday Indian summer day.

Not just up, but practically vibrating excitement. It was here. Now! The beginning of a new life, "the life" she had dreamed about since she was ten years old.

She paused for a moment in the pre-dawn hour and remembered how it all began. The year was 1976 and she was ten-years-old. On the small television in her family room, Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect ten on the uneven bars. It was the Summer Olympics in Montreal.

8-21-15: The Mari-Rae Sopper Conference Room at the Pentagon was dedicated this past summer.

Family attends the dedication of the Mari-Rae Sopper Conference Room at the Pentagon

Dedication photo of Mari-Rae at the Pentagon

9-10-05: $91,626 has been donated to the Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics Fund. See how the funds have been used.

7-16-04: We are proud to announce that $14,740 has been donated to the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (Division III women’s collegiate gymnastics). A fundraiser was held at Ravinia Park in Chicago where half of the money was donated. The Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics Fund matched those contributions.

9-9-03: We cordially invite you and your guests to participate in the first annual Mari-Rae Sopper Celebrity Golf Classic benefitting the Mari-Rae Sopper Gymnastics Memorial Fund.

4-29-03: The second annual College Bound Invitational Meet (sponsored in part by the Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics Fund) will be held in Dallas at The Adams Mark Hotel May 15 through the 18.

4-28-03: The Palatine Park District Gymnastics Club (Mari-Rae’s youth gymnastics home) will dedicate their annual spring show as the Mari-Rae Sopper Gymnastics Show on June 1. The memorial fund made a substantial donation to the Palatine Park District Gymnastics Parents Club to support the program.

10-10-02: Please visit Peaceful Tomorrows for another perspective on the impact of war in our world. With the prospects of a U.S. war with Iraq looming, we feel it is important to consider all options. We truly believe that Mari-Rae would insist that we do so. Read more at Peaceful Tomorrows.

8-17-02: Mari-Rae’s family and friends will be attending a series of events in the nation’s capitol to mark the one-year remembrance of September 11. The events include a concert, a one-year observance at the Pentagon (including visits to memorials in the rebuilt building), and a group burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Read more at the Department of Defense web site.

8-3-02: Next year’s College Bound Invitational will be held in Dallas, Texas May 15-19 at the Adams Mark Hotel. The Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics Fund is a co-sponsor of the event.

7-10-02: “Thank you” to Handstand Media for the contributions from the sale of their Women’s Gymnastics Trivia book during the months of February through May.

5-31-02: We’ve updated the site! Check out the list of prize winners at our gala fundraiser, read the update on the fund raising process and view the list of donors. Thanks to all!

3-5-02: Join us to celebrate Mari-Rae’s Dream, a gala fundraiser, this weekend (March 9, 2002) at the Excalibur nightclub in downtown Chicago.

2-10-02: Buy the new Women’s Gymnastics Trivia book and you’ll be contributing to Mari-Rae’s Memorial Gymnastics Fund. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book (which has over 450 trivia questions about women’s world and Olympic gymnastics) purchased directly from Handstand Media, Inc. will be donated. Visit Handstand Media to order your copy.

2-7-02: Mari-Rae was remembered by Mike Jacki, president of the National Association of College Gymnastics Coaches for Women after the Iowa State vs. Minnesota gymnastics meet on Friday, February 15. Mary Ann Kelly and Kendra Ciancio, gymnastics teammates from William Fremd High School, were on hand to present a video of Mari-Rae’s performances as a Cyclone gymnast.

1-30-02: Donations will be accepted for chances at prizes to be awarded during Mari-Rae’s Dream, a gala fundraiser in Chicago. The top prize is a three-day stay for two at the Wyndham Orlando resort (including airfare from anywhere Air Tran Airlines services). You can read about more prizes and auction items available to win at the event.

1-10-02: Mari-Rae’s Dream, a gala fundraiser, is planned for March 9, 2002 at the Excalibur nightclub in downtown Chicago. Join us for a one-of-a-kind party featuring food, dancing and mixing with local celebrities. Help us continue the fundraising to achieve Mari-Rae’s dream of saving the UCSB gymnastics program.

1-10-02: William Fremd High School (Palatine, IL), Mari-Rae’s alma mater, has announced that their annual women’s gymnastics invitational has been permanently named the Mari-Rae Sopper Fremd Women’s Gymnastics Invitational.

12-4-01: Read more about Mari-Rae’s life and dreams, including descriptions and photos of family, her love of gymnastics, her law career and statements about her personal beliefs.

12-1-01: USA Gymnastics donated a portion of ticket proceeds from the 2001 Reese’s Gymnastics Cup to the Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics Fund. A Celebrity Hour of autograph signings proceeded the event.

11-25-01: Thank you to all who have donated! The Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Gymnastics fund has a tax-exempt status. Its application for a 501(c)(3) classification has been approved.

10-8-01: Mari-Rae will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in a service on Friday, October 12. Learn more about the cemetery at www.arlingtoncemetery.com.

10-8-01: The Department of Defense will hold a memorial service for the victims of the crash at the Pentagon on Thursday, October 11. The service will be held at the Pentagon. Mari-Rae’s immediate family will be in attendance.

9-29-01: Mari-Rae was remembered with a moment of silence during the halftime of the Iowa State vs. Baylor football game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. Mari-Rae was an all-around gymnast at ISU from 1984 to 1988.

9-27-01: A video of the memorial service for Mari-Rae is available. Contact Gary Shibe of Candid Video at 847/634-2040. The cost is $25 (plus shipping).

9-26-01: The Sept. 24 edition of Sports Illustrated includes a two-page feature on Mari-Rae (page 80).

9-26-01: ESPN presented a special edition of “Outside The Lines” Monday evening (9-24) titled Lives Remembered. Featuring short stories on the lives of sports-related victims of the Sept. 11 tragedies, the episode included a segment on Mari-Rae.

Special Thanks

Our thanks to Greg Komoto, Musco Lighting and Mari-Rae’s family and friends for providing the resources for our memorial site. Greg, a member of the online OutOfBoundsNess Collegiate Gymnastics Forum, sparked interest among his colleagues to create the site.

Special thanks from Mari-Rae’s family to Town and Country Movers in Maryland for storage and moving of Mari-Rae’s furniture and personal items, and their donation of time and resources.

Special thanks to Susan Blumenthal, Christie Walser, James Bailey, Susan Bauer and Neal Pitcher, Attorneys at Law, and to Andrew Knox, CPA, for their donation of their time and knowledge to complete necessary forms and paperwork.

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