Gymnast Laurie Hernandez has three Olympic medals, one “Dancing With the Stars” mirror ball trophy and a very generous heart. That generosity was on display at a Santa Ana school, where she and others donated books and gym equipment to the students.
It’s not every day you get to play hockey at recess with an Olympic gold medalist. Many students at Martin Elementary School in Santa Ana said meeting Hernandez was a dream come true.
“She’s my hero, because she, I feel like she’s going to make my dream come true of going to the Olympics,” said fourth-grader Natalia Torres.
Hernandez teamed up with KPMG and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast to visit these lucky students, get some play time and encourage them to chase their dreams just like she continues to do.
“They’re kids. Kids are made to move, to kind of be free and play and have fun, and we’re just going to give them more opportunities to do that,” Hernandez said.
The real focus of the visit though — inspiring kids to read.
Hernandez and volunteers hand-delivered and donated more than 600 books to the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. One young lady even brought her own copy of Hernandez’s book for her to sign.
“Readers make leaders, and when kids have access to books, they become more patient, they become ones to think outside the box,” Hernandez said.
During an assembly, Hernandez shared her own path to success and eventual gold — as well as challenging these kids to be leaders in their own community.
“She’s just awesome in her own way. She encourages me,” said fourth-grader Dulce Villasenor.
Hernandez and the sponsors also surprised the kids with a donation of gym equipment to keep them active and sharp.
“These kids see me in person, playing with them, and I’m reading with them and I’m outside being active with them, I hope I can be a role model for them to do that as well,” Hernandez said.