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.
Molly, Kerry, sister Charlotte, brother Danny, father Jerry
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.
What a wonderful opportunity, Heather! Cheers to Molly for representing her family & country so valiantly!
Wow. Tears and awe. What an amazing family- and what incredible story tellers you and Molly’s dad both are. I honestly felt like I could see Molly running around the track.
I am so happy that this wonderful cause will benefit from all of your followers!
D in NB says:
I agree with Mommy….Molly’s Dad painted a picture that played out like a movie…
SO PROUD of you, Molly!! Keep up the great work! You are truly an inspiration! Can’t wait for Heather’s next update on you!
Wiping away my tears….
Thanks for the morning cry! Beautiful story. As a sister to someone with Autism, I appreciate the wonderful people of the Special Olympics for all that they do for God’s most special creatures.
Such an amazing opportunity. So happy that you were able to partake! Hope you are having a SUPER time!! XOXO
Leslie Burnham says:
Heartfelt story. Did you ever imagine all the places you would go … and how many of them are because Maddie is a part of your life? Amazing. That little girl continues to influence lives …
During the opening ceremonies, all I could think about was her.
What a wonderful opportunity!
You brought me to tears this morning as I sit and do my morning routing at work (yes, your blog is the first thing I do when I get here) =)
Is there a site to go to where I can get information regarding volunteering? I live in a smaller town in Minnesota and do not hear much about these opportunities here! I will take any information I can get!
I used to work at a group home for children with disabilities and we had a “field/olympics day” and it was talked about for months after! (Just had to share) =)
It means the world to them- and it is so great to see the happiness and pride on their faces!! Very touching to see them so proud of themselves and their friends as they cheer each other on!
WAY TO GO MOLLY!!
Way to go Molly!!
What an amazing experience. Seeing the special olympics in person, watch those kids achieve something to make themselves and their families so proud, melts my heart to think about.
Oh how I wish I were there! Watch the gymnastics, scream for Emily, my niece. Way to go Molly!!
Beautiful story!! Way to go Molly!
What an inspiring family! Thanks so much for sharing. Way to go Molly!!
Eliza Oates says:
What a beautiful story…thank you for sharing.
My gymnastics coach from high school and friend, Craig Ameel, is one of the track coaches. He is a one in a million type of guy..you should find him and say hello!
Enjoy every moment of your fabulous experience!!
I am already a fan of them!
Nancy Smego says:
Wow, what an amazing story and what an amazing family! GO MOLLY! And thanks for sharing Heather. Have an amazing time there…are Mike and Annie with you?
No, they are at home – it was a very quick trip, I am flying back to the states on the 30th!
Dude, I’m crying at work. I needed a tissue alert on this post! What an amazing family. I’m so glad you have this experience.
Best wishes to all of the participants and families. Stay safe! I’ve been reading about the political unrest there. Good luck to Molly and her family on the races!
Thanks for the morning tears! What an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing.
I was reading about the political unrest today outside parliament in Greece today. Please be careful until your return.
What an amazing story and family! What an honor to see a glimpse into their life.
So amazing! So glad you got this opportunity and share with us. It is in fact, life-changing.
Wow, what a story and what a family! They are the kind of family that draws goodwill and love towards them, as it seems they send it out to all they encounter. As mother to a little girl with autism, this story gives me so much hope and excitement for the future. Thank you for sharing their story! I have tears in my eyes, but they’re good ones.
What an inspiration! I’m going to go and wipe my eyes now…
What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! Way to go Molly!!!
Way to go Heather!!! Sounds like a beautiful life changing/experience for you too.
What a beautiful story of courage and spirit! Thank you for sharing.
Oh Molly. So sorry your feet were tangled with someone else. I bet you would have won.
Thank you Heather and the Hincka family for sharing such a touching story. Molly is such a beautiful girl inside and out and she her beauty shines through! Reading this story was one of the first things I did this morning and although I cried the entire time, it was a nice way to start the day. The rest of my day unfortunatley was VERY VERY stressful and now I find myself back here once again reading this story before I get ready for bed… I guess I just want to end my day on a positive note… just the same way it started
Lori R says:
Way to go Molly !! What spirit !! A great story told so well.
I could see it. I have tears in my eyes, I am so proud of Molly!
So impressive – both Molly and her family (and you having the opportunity to follow their story in Greece!). Looking forward to reading more about Molly and your trip. Take care.
Good on you Molly! Your family sounds amazing as well. Thank you Heather for sharing this story and insight into the Special Olympics. This was a truly beautiful story.
I’m so glad that you’re there and you can share these amazing and encouraging stories! Go, Molly, go!
What a touching story about not giving up. I hope you will update us on how Molly did in all her races! She and her family sound amazing!
I’m so glad you got to be part of such an amazing event and Molly sounds like a really special girl.
Now I’m crying. Such an awesome story. Thanks for sharing.
“Molly, YOU rock!”