CAMDEN — This story is not just about 15-year-old Molly Mann, but it starts with her. In 2012, a few hours before a ski race at Sunday River, Molly, who was 13 at the time, wasn’t on her game.
“I was really tired that day,” she remembers. “I wasn’t feeling like myself.”
She recalls taking a test-run down a winding trail called Ecstasy and that’s where things got hazy.
“I’m not entirely sure what happened,” she said. “I just remember not physically being able to stand up anymore. So I sat down on the back of my skis.”
She began to drift forward and without realizing it, had inadvertently skied over the lip of a 25-foot ravine.
“I remember tumbling a few times, then it went all black,” she said.
No one knew where Molly was for an hour and half and during that time, she lay unconscious at the foot of the ravine. When the search party and ski patrol finally found her, they whisked her by ambulance to a spot where LifeFlight could pick her up and take her to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
She had multiple bone fractures, two skull fractures, a ruptured ear drum, and a punctured tympanic membrane and hearing nerve, which has resulted in total deafness in one ear.
She spent three days in the ICU at Maine Medical before they transferred her to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital for the rest of her recovery. She spent two weeks there, re-learning how to walk, a result of balance problems from her ear injury.
But she was grateful to be alive.
“Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to give back to them in in some way,” she said.
This year, along with fellow students at Camden Hills Regional High School, she was able to find a way to do that with her involvement in the school’s Interact Club.
Interact Club is a international club of high school students who gather to do community service-based projects through the school year. Internationally and nationally there are approximately 16,000 clubs. At CHRHS, there are approximately 60 students involved in the club, which is sponsored by West Bay and Camden rotaries.
Molly, the secretary of the Interact Club, proposed to the group that this year’s holiday project be dedicated to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and the kids in the club readily agreed.
“These are such a great group of kids who are motivated and really want to help people,” Molly said. “I thought what a good idea it would be to help the kids down in Portland with the money we made selling wreaths at Christmas By the Sea.”
All of the students in the Interact Club supported this effort and the sales from their effort netted $500.
Sitting next to Molly during the interview was Annie Young, 17, the club treasurer, who also had a vested interest in focusing on the hospital’s children.
“My brother also has spent time at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, once as an infant and most recently, getting some tests done,” she said.
Her younger brother, now 12, in her words, “was the sickest one there.”
When Molly suggested the hospital as the beneficiary, Annie agreed it would be perfect. She said, “Since my parents have also stayed at the Ronald McDonald House down there, we all agreed, we’d donate the rest of what we had left over there.”
Molly and Annie, know first-hand what it is like for kids to be stuck in a hospital.
“Even though that hospital is like a hotel with this beautiful architecture and comfortable rooms and great food,” said Molly, “you can still feel a little scared and sad.” She added, “I loved the nurses, they were all great. I remember this one huge fish tank in the atrium that I would go to ever day.”
“Going into Christmas, many families are going to be spending their days at the hospital with their children,” said Annie fighting back a trembling in her voice when she recalls what her family went through. “I just know from seeing my brother in the hospital for a long period of time, it gets very emotional. I saw kids who were in a lot worse shape than my brother and I can’t imagine how the parents get through it. The biggest thing for me is having the kids realize we’re there to lift their spirits.”
That Friday afternoon after the interview, Molly and Annie went shopping with their advisor, Karen Hansen, and bought everything they needed locally at Sherman’s Bookstore and The Planet.
On Sunday, Dec. 14, five students from Interact Club along with Hansen, drove down to Portland to deliver toys, books, candy canes, crafts and other items to distribute to the kids at the hospital as well as the Ronald McDonald House.
The students included Molly, Harper Gordon, Rosie Lawson, Eliza Boetsch and Bill Bracher. Annie Young had planned on coming, but unfortunately sprained her ankle in a basketball game on Friday night and was unable to join them.
Molly recalled her fellow students’ excitement after finally arriving with boxes of gifts in their hands.
“At first, one or two kids came out of their hospital rooms, then a whole bunch, along with some of their siblings. After making some snowflake crafts with the kids, they then sang carols. “One of the best parts was the gift giving because all of the kids carefully chose which gifts they wanted.”
After everything Molly has been through, this holiday project of the Interact Club has been enormously fulfilling.
“It felt overwhelmingly great for all of us,” she said. “Seeing how happy the kids were was awesome because we got to see our impact on them. When we drove home, we just felt so great bout it. It was amazing to give back.”
Related story: Empty Bowl dinner and silent auction
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org