Cancer Surviving Olympian Auctions Off Silver Medal to Save Infant’s Life

Cancer Surviving Olympian Auctions Off Silver Medal to Save Infant’s Life

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Polish Olympian Maria Andrejczyk, 25, finally had the opportunity to compete in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics this past summer. The delayed opening due to the pandemic had allowed the young athlete to recoup further from several related health issues that had sidelined her from competing in 2017.  The health issues were a severe shoulder injury that required surgery and a shocking diagnosis in 2018 that she had Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that is most often found in the legs and sometimes in the arms. The disease tends to occur in teenagers and young adults like Andrejczyk.

Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, surgery and sometimes radiation therapy.  Luckily, it had been successful in allowing the young Polish javelin thrower to fulfill her dream.  She successfully competed in Tokyo, capturing a silver medal on August 6th, with an impressive toss of nearly 212 feet.

Her medical odyssey from being a cancer survivor, along with her lifelong dream of winning a medal at an Olympic event, defying all the odds, is itself a heartwarming story of perseverance and of never giving up.

However, what follows is a testament to Maria Andrejczyk’s humanity and her selfless act of generosity.

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Days after returning in triumph to her home in Suwalki, Poland, wearing her silver medal around her neck and receiving a much deserved hero’s welcome from her countryman, Andrejczyk came across a fundraising page for an 8 month old Polish boy, named Miloszek Malysa.

The fundraising page outlined in detail that the child would surely die if he didn’t receive a much needed life-saving surgery. He was born with a congenital heart defect.  The fundraising page continued informing readers that the infant needed almost $400,000 in American dollars, which is the amount required to fly to the United States and undergo a risky life-saving procedure at the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California.

Andrejczyk, perhaps feeling a bond to the young child, knew that a devastating illness can overwhelm a family struggling to overcome immense obstacles. As an Olympic athlete she had that innate ability to overcome whatever health issues she faced.  However, for an infant child and his family overwhelmed with fear, there’s little they can do on their own without outside intervention.  And without surgery, tiny Miloszek had little chance of survival.

The family had already raised nearly half the necessary funds for Milo to make the trip to the U.S., with a large portion of the money donated by the family of another ailing Polish boy, Kubus, who died before the funds could be used for his medical needs.

Andrejczyk, decided after only 5 days to auction off her silver Olympic medal, perhaps the most treasured prize of her lifetime.  She posted it on her Facebook page along with this message; “Miłoszek has a serious heart defect, he needs an operation,” Andrejczyk wrote in Polish, according to Google Translate. “He also has support from above from Kubuś, a boy who did not make it on time, but wonderful people decided to donate his funds to Miłoszek.”

The auction quickly took off, with bidders going back and forth, until the winning bid reached $125,000 by a Polish convenience store chain.

We have the winner of the auction!” Andrejczyk wrote. “On Friday I received this wonderful information, and due to the fact that you dears have already done wonders and joined forces, have paid more than the equivalent of the initial medal to the Miłoszek account.  I decided to end the auction so that our Miłoszek will receive the whole amount as soon as possible and can fly to the USA.”

She added: “The winner, and at the same time, the company I will be eternally grateful to, is the company Zabka.”

After the final bid was announced, Andrejczyk told a Polish TV station, “The true value of a medal always remains in the heart. A medal is only an object, but it can be of great value to others. This silver can save lives, instead of collecting dust in a closet. That is why I decided to auction it to help sick children.”

However the company also had an announcement to make after the auction was over, that surprised Andrejczyk.

We were moved by the beautiful and extremely noble gesture” made by Andrejczyk, Zabka wrote. “We also decided that the silver medal from Tokyo will stay with Ms. Maria.”