Like many of you, I have been enthralled by the London Summer Olympics, watching the back stories of grueling hard work, injury, and determination with a mix of awe and admiration for the sacrifices made by the athletes and their families in pursuit of their gold medal dreams. However, as I see the home videos of little ones in their early days on balance beams and bicycles, my thoughts return to the Beijing games of 2008, when Haddonfield Child Care had a stake in the outcome of the women’s track events.

I will never forget the little girl who ran faster than any of the other kindergartners in our Extended Day Kindergarten Program (EDKP), back in the early days when the program was housed at Haddonfield Memorial High School.  How many times did I hear EDKP Supervisor Barbara Sambucci shout, “Slow down, Erin!” to Erin Donohue, who consistently got ahead of her classmates racing on the high school track?

Thank goodness, Erin didn’t listen!  She ran and ran, faster and faster. She began to run marathons with her dad. She became a track standout at that same Haddonfield high school when she was a teenager. And in 2008, I watched with tears in my eyes as our EDKP alum rode by in a parade given in her honor, sending her off to the Beijing games in the way only a small town can do.  I waved my sign, proclaiming “Run, Erin, Run!” to show that Haddonfield Child Care was proud of that little girl who understood her talents, and followed her heart and dreams all the way to the Olympics.

Later, I was pleased that she remembered me, chatting as she autographed the homemade sign I had lovingly designed to cheer her on. I told her that the sign would be used to inspire other HCC children to pursue their dreams, just as she had done.

Although Erin didn’t win a medal in Beijing, and was unable to compete this time due to an injury, I am still in awe that one of our “HCC kids” had the opportunity to participate in something so special. Erin will always be a star to me.

The sign has remained in my office until this spring, when it found a new home in today’s EDKP classroom.  I hope that the incoming kindergartners, fresh off the excitement of watching the Olympics this summer, will be excited to hear the story of little Erin, running the track during outdoor play time, and how she went on to become one of the fastest women in the USA and the world.  What careers might they pursue? What contributions might they make in the world, if they have the determination and support to follow their dreams?

Erin isn’t the only HCC child who has found a permanent place of admiration in my heart.  Every year I hear stories of the accomplishments among 26 years of HCC kids. And I hope that even after I retire and someone else occupies my desk, I will still be hearing about dancers and doctors, singers and social workers, teachers and tech gurus, military heroes and mothers who are making a difference and creating a better world, but who once called HCC their home away from home after school.

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