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Olympic hockey player speaks at Sacred Heart on the first day of school

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

East Grand Forks – For the fifth year, students at Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks, started the school year with an inspirational program. This year’s DAY ONE event featured Gigi Marvin, a hockey player with the Boston Pride. She was part of the U.S. women’s hockey team at three Winter Olympics winning silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and gold in 2018.

Marvin, who is originally from Warroad, visited elementary classrooms to talk with younger students before speaking to grades 6-12 in the A.I. Merth Gymnasium on Sept. 3. Students from Holy Family-St. Mary’s School, Grand Forks, and St. Michael’s School, Grand Forks, as well as parents, grandparents and alumni also attended.

Mark Brickson, Donor Relations Officer for the Sacred Heart Foundation, asked Marvin questions in an interview format touching on topics including her youth, participating in the Olympics, advice for students, and the role faith has played in her life.

“Warroad is nicknamed ‘Hockey Town USA’ and I always joke that I was born in a hockey town in a hockey family and the skates were going on no matter what; I just happened to fall in love with the game,” Marvin said. 

She is grateful for the community and the examples of generosity provided there.

“I used to skate all the time,” Marvin said. “I would attribute that to the generosity of people who came before us. There’s nowhere else in the world you can go and skate and you don’t have to pay a dime.”

She is also grateful for the tightly knit community fostered there.

“Everyone knows each other and the good side of that is the willingness to support and help,” Marvin said. “And my gym teacher was an Olympian,” she added. “How many people have a gym teacher that’s an Olympian?!”

Her career in hockey has had its share of challenges. The team trains rigorously 50 weeks of the year. After winning silver in the 2014 Olympic Games, Marvin had to take a year off because of severe hip injuries. After 27 years of skating nearly every day, it was difficult for her to have to sit back and only do “boring” and painful rehab exercises. During her year off the ice, God reminded her that her worth was not in what she could do.

“We’re all created equally in God’s image and I needed to come to terms and understand and embrace that whether I’m competing or whether I’m not, I’m still important and valuable,” she said.

She encouraged students to turn to the Lord when they hit roadblocks in life.

After she returned to playing hockey, she faced three years of working extra hard to regain strength, being cut and uncertainty about her role. The difficulty of those years fueled her joy at making the 2018 Olympic team.

“I was so grateful and overjoyed, those four years, especially that injury, really cultivated gratitude,” Marvin said. “I felt like the Lord wanted me to keep pursuing it and I had all of the challenges and setbacks, it was definitely not easy … my family is amazing, and my community supported me so well.”

During those games, Marvin was part of the shoot out that led to the USA beating Canada for the gold medal.

When she went on the ice, a camera zoomed in on her face and she was smiling.

People asked her afterward how she could have been smiling during the most pressure packed moment of her career.

In that moment she remembers thinking “I was born to do this. I’m going to have a blast. This is what I was created for.”

Her prayer that morning focused on 2 Corinthians 10. Because she grounded her day in scripture, rather than being stuck in a narrative about the pressure of the moment, she felt peace and joy.

“Christ, the Bible literally came to my aid as I was standing there on the ice,” she said.

Brickson asked Marvin what advice she had for students about leadership.

She said a true leader is a servant who cares about others and puts that care into action.

Marvin encouraged students to be aware of ways to ease others’ burdens. She also said good leaders acknowledge the gifts of others.

“Every single one of you guys has a God-given gift, every single person,” Marvin said. “Our job is to help shine a light on that so if someone does something remarkable … acknowledge it.”

Marvin emphasized that things like gold medals are fleeting, but how people treat others lasts. She said following God and loving others are the important things in life.

“Success is in obeying what he has called you to do, honoring and loving the Lord, asking to be dependent on him and loving those around you,” Marvin` said. “I think our life is set if that can be our success.”

She encouraged the students to have fun while seeking God’s plan for them and to remember the sacrifices of others have helped provide the opportunities they have now.

“Work at everything you have with your whole heart. It’s so fun. Even if you’re in a challenge, just see what comes of it. You never know what it is going to bring,” Marvin said.

Joanne Wilson, Sacred Heart School Dean of Academics and Principal of K-6, said Marvin’s encouragement for students to be servant leaders and live as God calls them to fits in very well with the school’s mission.

“The message that in all things God may be glorified is what we live through our Benedictine values and Gigi Marvin brought in how that applies to life outside of school and how faith can be an integral part of helping us be who we are,” Wilson said.

Sept. 3 was also the first day classes were held in the school’s new addition. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Aug. 28 outside the $3 million, 10,865 square foot wing added to accommodate the school’s growing numbers. Enrollment at Sacred Heart School has increased by more than 125 students in the past six years.

Editor's note: A paragraph about the Aug. 28 ribbon cutting was added Sept. 9, 2019.

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