I have the privilege of being at the Special Olympics World Summer games. I’ve been here since the twenty fifth. Where is here? Well, it’s in Athens, Greece. Crazy, I know. I haven’t really mentioned that I’m in Greece because to me, it is so secondary to what I am here for – Special Olympics. And while Greece is beautiful and I’ve seen many historical things, the true beauty is happening on the sports fields.
Yesterday, I spent the day with the Hincka Family. Molly and her mom Kerry are the mother-daughter duo I’ve been profiling for the last few weeks. I’ve been looking forward to meeting the family for months.
They did not disappoint. Their spirit is intoxicating. Their heart for Special Olympics has inspired me to look into volunteer opportunities back in Los Angeles. And their love for each other and everyone they meet made me realize that they are the true definition of special.
I could write a book about the day I spent with their family – Kerry is everyone’s best friend, little brother Danny is an avid pin trader, sisters Charlotte and Molly love to dance, and father Jerry is the calm cool dad that oversees them all. But what I really want to share is the story of Molly’s first race at the games (the 3000m), and the extraordinary thing that happened.
These are the words of Molly’s father:
Molly took the track at just after 10 am. After a long week apart, our family’s hearts lifted just SEEING her as she ambled onto the track, happy, smiling. The gun went off, and the lead runners went out hard. Molly sprinted about the first eighty meters, then settled into a quick pace. She finished lap 1 in 1:41–really fast for her, if she was going to keep it up for a long race. Two runners went clearly ahead, Molly settled with the rest, knocking down one 2-minute lap after another. Again, pretty quick for her, but with two laps left, spots 3rd thru 5th were anybody’s to take.
Then, disaster…in twelve years of running, Molly has fallen a million times in practice, never in a race. Until today. She was working the track with the other runners-back and forth, they were really racing. Going around the first turn, Molly’s feet got tangled with another runner. She tried to recover-she was on the inside, and on a regular track, she might have held it together. But this track has a small, almost imperceptible ledge on the inside. Molly bumped from the outside, got shifted to the inside, hit the ledge….and went down like a ton of bricks…full bore, flat out SPLAT right on her face and stomach!! She went down very hard. She laid there for a moment (that seemed like an hour). A volunteer was running toward her. I thought she might be done. A year of training, all of our family’s and our team’s hopes, there they were, laying on the track. But then?
Well, then, all I can say is, Molly was Molly.
Unaided, she pulled herself up, and started up again on the track…limping badly, walking at first, then pushing into a tentative jog. When she came around to the turn we were at, we saw the bright crimson splotches of blood on her knees (a sight we’ve seen so many times in her years of hard work). The entire section where we were sitting saw what had happened, and heard Charlotte and Danny calling out encouragement to their sister. The crowd picked up on it, and started chanting ‘Molly! Molly!’. She went into her bell lap limping on her right side, but steadily picked up speed, and even put her head down and sprinted the last 120 meters.
Kerry met her at the finish line. Molly was most upset because she thought she had let us down–how could she?? This race was, in a way, a snapshot of Molly’s life–high hopes to start, adversity knocks her down, but Molly has a motor and a drive that just won’t quit. When she’s knocked down, she just gets up, smiles, and keeps on pushin’. She finished the 3000 in a respectable 17:12.
We saw Molly after, and got a chance to tell her just how proud we were. She is banged up, but nothing is so hurt that she won’t continue in the rest of her races. After hugs and kisses, she turned toward the track, where one of her teammates was running, and screamed her lungs out for him to finish strong.
I heard the retelling of this story by Molly’s parents while Molly stood next to me and smiled shyly. I cried. I felt so proud of her – as a mom, as a woman, and as an athlete representing the United States.
Also – you can become a fan of Molly on Facebook!
Disclaimer: Procter & Gamble paid for my trip to Athens as part of the Thank You Mom campaign. I am extremely grateful for this truly life-changing opportunity. Also, for every person that becomes a fan of the Thank You Mom Facebook page and/or leaves a comment, Procter & Gamble will donate $1 to support Special Olympics Team USA.