During the Olympics we watch as athletes like Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles defy the odds, over and over again. Their accomplishments spark the hope in each of us that maybe the odds are...just odds. Maybe they don’t mean absolute defeat but only less certain victory. Maybe the odds are only there to remind us that to achieve our goals, we have to give absolutely everything.
In this same spirit, we decided to visit the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital as they hosted an Olympic watch party to celebrate the Summer Games with some of the kids and families who constantly defy the odds. It was an afternoon filled with watching Olympic events, playing yard games, decorating cookies and creating Olympic themed crafts. And on the hospital’s medal podium, we awarded SportsEngine gold medals to the patients and families.
During the event we met families who, like so many, make the Olympics a big part of their traditions. One family we met in particular goes all out every Games. “We love watching countries come together and the back stories about the Olympians and finding out all of the things they overcome,” said Alyssa, mother of three. “We are total dorks and have a watching party every year for the opening ceremony and make a meal themed to the host country.” Then Alyssa’s daughter, Genoa, beamed as she shared her dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer, just like her favorite Olympian Katie Ledecky.
Some University of Minnesota athletes also came to celebrate the Olympics with the patients. Gopher Track and Field athlete, Temi Ogunrinde, shared with us why she volunteers at the hospital. “It (volunteering) really puts it (life) into perspective for me. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our lives, but we are blessed to see another day. And should enjoy each day because it could be our last. These kids are enjoying each day, every day, and I love it.”
Defying the odds, with a smile, is what these kids, and their families, do every day. As they fight the odds, they inspire us to do the same.
Janelle, mother of patient, Allison, shared with us what it is about her daughter that inspires her. “Her strength,” Janelle said. “She is just a fighter. I don’t know how else to put it….throughout this whole journey she has never complained about anything.”
As the Rio Olympics continue a while longer, take some time and remember those who have inspired you to be strong and defy the odds.
To encourage a young athlete or to thank a role model, go to passingtheflame.com to “pass the flame” and a personal message to them. Then, make sure to follow SportsEngine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to celebrate and share all those who will inspire and be inspired during these Olympic Games.