Whether they’re gathering school supplies for teachers, gifting scholarships, fundraising for those impacted by the 2020 Nashville tornado, or facilitating a formula exchange to aid thousands of mothers during a nationwide shortage, giving back is ingrained in the fabric of Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson East and her husband Andrew East

In July 2023 the couple launched the Moment Makers Foundation, a charitable organization that aims to find, foster and fuel life-changing moments for families. Launching a foundation had always been a dream since the two got married eight years ago. Consolidating their efforts into one cause was the biggest challenge. 

That’s when Andrew suggested: why not do it all? Why limit themselves to one cause when they can open the door for thousands of moments that change peoples lives?

“When you think back on your life, you don’t remember years or months or weeks, you just remember moments,” Andrew said. “It’s kind of exciting to think that all of us, Shawn and I included, have the ability to create moments for other people that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.” 

For the past year, the Moment Makers Foundation was somewhat of a behind-the-scenes force for the Easts' philanthropic endeavors. Now, with the launch of the Moment Makers Grant, they have decided to share it with the world.  

“If only you could have seen the conversations we had here,” Shawn said with a soft chuckle. “I didn’t really want it to be public. It’s not something we’re trying to get publicity for. I just had no idea how to get it out there to the people who possibly need it, other than announcing it.”

The couple are hoping to make a large, meaningful impact on parents competing this summer at the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics. 

“As a parent of three I could not possibly imagine competing right now and having to worry about the logistics of my kids,” Shawn said. “It’s crazy to think that a lot of these moms and dads are competing and training and at the same time, trying to figure out: ‘Am I going to be able to get my kids over to Paris? Who is going to watch my kids if they don’t come to Paris?’”

Shawn Johnson poses with her husband Andrew East
2008 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East poses with her husband Andrew.
Ali Miller

Inspired by Allyson Felix’s Child Care Grant in 2021, the Easts have set aside $250,000 from the foundation to help ease the financial burden for parents who are competing at the Games. However, they are open to extending the grant amount based on need. 

Around 850 U.S. athletes are expected to compete in Paris, many of which are parents, and also not yet household names. 

Both Shawn and Andrew expressed there is a common misconception that Olympic athletes have access to money or have endless resources at their disposal. 

“A lot of people assume because you are a competing Olympic athlete you have financial support from companies, but you really don’t,” Shawn said. “(The) majority of these people are paying out of pocket to go to the Olympics and compete. We truly just wanted to say, ‘Let us help you in any way we can. No questions asked.’”

There are only two requirements for the Moment Makers Grant: all applicants must be a parent with childcare needs and must be participating at the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s as simple as that. 

The grant can be used for any childcare need including but not limited to: paying for a babysitter in Paris, flying a babysitter to Paris, paying a babysitter to stay home with the athletes' children while they travel to Paris, or flying their children out to watch them compete.

“You don’t have to show receipts, it does not have to go towards a babysitter,” Shawn said. “If it just helps you ease any load of any kind, we’re happy to help in that department.”

Andrew concurred, adding that the goal is to help the families “who have been – for the last four years – sacrificing to enable this dream of their family members to make it to the Olympics. They’ve been a part of the sacrifice, we want them to also be a part of the celebration.”

The couple emphasized that any athletes who receive the grant will remain anonymous; the decision to share their story remains completely in their own hands. 

Currently, the grant is only available for U.S. athletes. However, that is something they would love to change, eventually.

“I would love to open it up, but we would have to figure out how to pay internationally,” Shawn said. “So if there are any companies out there who read this and can help us fix that gap, we would love it. We’ll open it up!” 

Full-circle moment

The East family will be in Paris this summer. That includes the couple's three children Drew, Jett and Barrett. 

Shawn couldn’t stop the smile from lighting up her face when thinking about her two worlds colliding. The 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she competed at just 16, was a life-changing moment. 

She returned home with four Olympic medals – three silver and one gold – and has been to nearly every Games since (with the exception of Tokyo, where the Pandemic limited spectators). 

Shawn Johnson performs on floor at the 2008 Olympics
Shawn Johnson (USA) performs her floor exercise routine during the women's all-around finals at the National Indoor Stadium during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew, on the other hand, has never been to the Olympics. Well, that is unless you count the time he rode the train through Atlanta during the 1996 Games, gathering pins as a wide-eyed five-year-old. He didn’t attend any of the sporting events, but that didn’t change the enthusiasm he had for the Games at a young age. 

This summer, Shawn and Andrew will bring all three of their children to Paris – their first international trip as a family of five. And of course, attending one of the gymnastics competitions is on the itinerary. 

For their four-year-old daughter Drew, who unwittingly seeks out Andrew for cartwheel assistance, going to the Olympics will not only be an unforgettable memory, but just may help connect the missing dots to her mother’s past.  

“I don’t want to make it sound super cheesy or super sentimental, but there is something to this full-circle moment for me of going to the Olympics with all of my kids and my husband, which has never happened,” Shawn said. “It is pretty cool.”

At the end of the day, creating meaningful moments is what life and the Moment Makers Foundation is all about. Whether it’s helping other families make memories in Paris or something as simple as making somebody smile, the Easts' hope is that people feel inspired to make moments wherever they are and with whoever they interact with. 

“Everyone can make special moments whether you’re giving someone a smile or writing somebody a note, and I think that’s important,” Andrew said. “I think that’s what makes life have its color and brings joy.”