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The children were all lined up into rows…that was familiar. For years and months that seemed countless, these children had been dressed down, moved about, and lined up in detention facilities. They had been made (forced) to be well acquainted with structure, with orders…and with the consequences for disobedience. Perhaps, for the first time in their lives. And yet, every time they entered a penal facility, they had to bend over, squat, and shift their weight from side to side. They were strip searched in the most dehumanizing way to see if they were smuggling drugs, knives, or even guns into the juvenile hall.

Today was different however. Today, they moved their bodies, but they had their clothes on. There was no body cavity search, no interrogation, and no hand cuffs. The man just wanted them to stretch.

The man was Dick Mulvihill. The coach who had personally trained more than 17 Olympians from around the world during a coaching career which spanned over forty years—was now coaching them. As was his ritual, he came to the gym at 5am for the morning workout only to return at 2pm for the afternoon group. The gym had become so influential and well known that people were moving from around the globe to come and train with him. Yet, despite the demands of customers, his family, and his commitments to USA gymnastics, Dick was making time for them.

He wasn’t training hopeful olympic gymnasts with high leaps and taut tendons. Rather, today Dick was coaching from, and perhaps for his soul. He had a penchant for helping anyone, and in these few stollen hours, he found the time to help a bunch of kids, a pack of thugs, thieves, and miscreants. The abused, abandoned, and mistreated children that the rest of the world had given up on. Dick had coordinated with some group homes, foster families, and juvenile centers to bring their kids to his facility…and coach them for free. They probably had never heard of Dick Mulvihill or his 3-time olympian wife Linda, nor would they be impressed by his long list of accolades. But, what they did take notice of was his willingness. A willingness to love on them, even if it was just a little. No doubt, it was something that they hadn’t seen much of.

If only to see that—what a sight. The best coach in world at the time…made a place in his day for a bunch of kids that everyone else had found unworthy. Kids that had been left behind, crushed, and lost. Dick said, “I value you.” Imagine Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan taking time between their NBA games and practices at the height of their success, to teach basketball to abused kids?

People have asked me why I picked Eugene, and why did I pick the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics? It is because the Mulvihill family see gymnastics differently. They see it like I do. They see it as probably one of the best ways to love on kids known to mankind.

Reasonable people, given the same information, are likely to come to the same conclusion. When faced with a problem, their company credo is to act swiftly, seek to do the greatest amount of good, and do it for the most amount of people possible. As such they have run their gymnastics gym for 40 years as a not-for-profit entity, and no kid is ever turned away.

Recently, a girl on team’s parents split up, and then her mom lost her job. The Mulvihill’s were determined that while this child’s life was falling apart, her gymnastics wouldn’t. Scratch that, couldn’t. Rather, it had to become the beacon of solidity in this young child’s life. It had to become an immovable bit of steadfastness as the tides of change threatened to erode the very sand below her feet.

This is why I came here. Their mission statement reads: “To make a positive difference in the lives of our students and their families. Developing happier, healthier, and more confident children in our community. Can you think of a more noble cause to which you would like you name associated with?

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