The pool at Surfrider Beach Club in Sea Bright was peppered with purple swim caps bobbing up and down in the water as children on the club’s swim team and the opposing team from Chapel Beach Club honored Molly Richards.
The 3-year-old girl from Fair Haven lost her two-year battle against a terminal brain tumor on July 6.
Molly was diagnosed with cancer at age 2. Though the tumor was inoperable, her parents flew her to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee for experimental procedures in hopes of finding a cure – or at least prolonging the cancer’s progression.
Back in town, Molly was known as “Miracle Molly” because of her courage and joy despite her youth and condition. Molly’s support group and inspiration extended to Surfrider Beach Club, where her family has a membership.
“Instead of just swimming to win, it’s more just swim for Molly – and put it all on the line for Molly,” said 15-year-old Surfrider swimmer Peter Warshaw.
Colleen Doogan, a friend of the Richards’ and fellow beach club member, originally planned to sell $10 swim caps with the logo “Peace, Love and Miracles” printed in purple, Molly’s favorite color, to help raise money for her fight against cancer.
But Molly passed away before the swim caps came in, so Doogan turned the fundraiser into a memorial for Molly and her family.
“(Molly’s death) put a little bit of a different spin on things, and now it is in memory of her,” Doogan said.
The fundraiser and memorial was a bigger success than Doogan ever expected after Surfrider’s cross-town rival Chapel Beach Club bought 40 of the swim caps to wear at Tuesday’s meet between the two teams.
“It shows that we’re really part of a league, instead it’s not like everyone’s separate teams,” Chapel coach Emily Velcamp said. “Yes we’re swimming against each other, but we’re also both swimming for the same cause.”
In Molly’s obituary, her parents said how much of an impact she had on the Fair Haven and Surfrider communities:
“Molly, although not here with us long, touched the hearts of many. She never once complained or cried during her dance. Let her life be a true example of courage, strength and fortitude until the last breath. We will LOVE you forever, Daddy and Mommy.”
Molly is survived by her parents and her older sister Emily, who swam in the meet Tuesday.
In an online condolence message board, family and friends celebrated her life, admiring her angelic smile and genuine happiness. They said they have learned considerable lessons from their 3-year-old role model whose favorite song was Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
The profits from the swim cap fundraiser will be donated to the Richards to compensate for medical bills and other expenses.
– By Dan Russo. Photos by Jaclyn Shugard
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