Sports and Service Go Hand in Hand: Molly Sullivan, student volunteer with Best Buddies and Special Olympics, discloses how she combines her two favorite things to give back

Reignite your favorite hobbies and combine them with service! Meet Molly Sullivan, a current student at Marquette University who puts service at the heart of all she does. She and I went to high school together! As a volunteer and leader of Special Olympics and Best Buddies at her school, Molly knows her way to making time for others. Molly loves all things sports. In fact, she broke six swimming records in high school! Geniusly, she has combined her love of sports with her desire to build friendships with those with intellectual disabilities. Molly also speaks about her faith fueling her passion in life to be a person dedicated to serving others. Her bubbly personality shines through on this episode. It’s easy to hear her authenticity. Listen now!

Connect with Molly on LinkedIn. Check out Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Find more service opportunities on my blog. If you haven’t already subscribed to the podcast, do so now. Subscribe to my blog, too! Music for this podcast was created by Keegan Foley. See his music and hire him for voice and music production.

Las Posibilidades en las Matemáticas: Sebastián Cano, ganador de medalla oro de las Olimpiadas Matemáticas, está creciendo PINO, su organización para ayudar otros chicos apasionados Talk By Victoria

Hi! Today, I’m speaking with Sebastian Cano. I met him at the Latin American Leadership Academy. From the beginning, Sebastian told us that he loved math and that his dream was to go to MIT. And guess what? He is part of the MIT class of 2026! Sebastian’s love for math drove him to start a Math Olympics league in Paraguay. Notably, he won a gold medal in the International Math Olympics! Incredible, right? I invited him to the podcast because Sebastian does more than just math: he helps other students, once like him, get excited about school and help them with their math. He recently started an organization that does just that. He gives a lot of awesome advice here (especially if you’re applying for college!), and it’s my honor to have him on the Podcast. Enjoy! This interview is conducted in Spanish. If you want to see the English version, visit talkbyvictoria.com/podcast. PINO Paraguay website: https://sites.google.com/view/pinopy  PINO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pino_org.py/.  Question of the Episode:  What is the first thing that you turn to when you are stressed? Not the second thing, third thing, or thing you "should" turn to. What's the very first one? It's super revealing! Tell me your response on my Instagram (@talkbyvictoria) or through my email: victoria@talkbyvictoria.com. Have an awesome day! Looking forward to talking soon!  Wordpress Engine, eCommerce Discount: https://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=1969474&u=3097912&m=41388&urllink=&afftrack. Discount code: WOOYEAR22. 
  1. Las Posibilidades en las Matemáticas: Sebastián Cano, ganador de medalla oro de las Olimpiadas Matemáticas, está creciendo PINO, su organización para ayudar otros chicos apasionados
  2. Sports and Service Go Hand in Hand: Molly Sullivan, student volunteer with Best Buddies and Special Olympics, discloses how she combines her two favorite things to give back
  3. Be that Big Sibling: Ryan Kyle, leader of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) at Amherst Co, teaches us how to circumvent virtual, funding and motivation challenges

Victoria Foley
So tell me a little bit about yourself.

Molly Sullivan
My name is Molly Sullivan. For those who don’t know, I’m 20 years old. I’m a junior psychology major at Marquette University, which is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Victoria Foley
Gotcha. Did you always know that you were going to go in the psychology route?

Molly Sullivan
I was hoping to go into anything related to mental health or just just something that would be able to help people and research about how people behave. I think for me during COVID to you know, being a freshman in this major only made me like the major more you know, because I know plenty of people have been dealing with mental health stuff during COVID. So I think you know, that confirms you know, my love for Psych and why I wanted to do it. So yes, that has always been on my mind. For sure.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Cool. I remember did you take AP psych with? Oh, my gosh, I forget the professor’s name at Visitation [our high school that we went to]. Did you take that class?

Molly Sullivan
I did not. I was in the Psychology Club. But I didn’t have time to fit it into my schedule. So I actually took neuroscience and that is very, like biology based but it does have some psych aspects to it. So it honestly was a great class. But no, I did not take AP Psych.

Victoria Foley
No, but neuroscience I think that’s even like harder. Oh my god, she did neuro. Whenever I hear someone said that. They take neuro. I’m like, wow, that’s like new stuff. So, you and I went to Georgetown visitation where we both went to high school, literally in Georgetown, DC. And I think we I’m not sure if we shared any classes together. Like I can’t remember us sitting in the same classroom. But undoubtedly, like within the same circles, the same like, you know, like activities, not across country track. All of those fun sports. But I do remember you had like the best sweetest smile. I remember when I think we’re on the same Kairos retreat. So Kairos for like people who don’t know, Kairos is like a Catholic spiritual retreat. And I remember I’m pretty sure you were one of the leaders. But yeah, so I just refer you as an awesome, awesome person around visitation. And if someone were to run into you at Marquette, um, I don’t know, where would they find you? What would you be doing?

Molly Sullivan
Well, first of all, thank you for the kind words I could definitely say the same about you. Life for me, pretty honest, is quite busy. On top of majoring in Psych and the Best Buddies E-board, I’m the athletic director for Special Olympics, which means I get to talk with Marquette athletics. I basically talk to them about once a month, just check in with them. And basically, we just try to get them to help us fundraise for Special Olympics Wisconsin for the state of Wisconsin. So that’s one thing that I’m involved in. I’m also the community service representative for the pre occupational therapy club. Basically, I do a big volunteer event once a semester and it takes a lot of preparation but at the end of the day, It’s great and feel good after doing service for others in the Greater Milwaukee community. So that definitely takes a lot of time out of my schedule to. On top of that, I’m also working as a lifeguard, I work basically six to eight hours a week, very low key, but it still takes time out of my schedule. So I left guard, part time at Mark hat, and I enjoy it. So you can find me honestly everywhere around campus. But typically when I’m not doing anything, I’m either you know, in my room chilling, listening to music, or I’m at the library studying.

Victoria Foley
Yeah. Wow, you do so much. And if I’m not mistaken, you still swim, right? Like the whole the whole sport life still going on?

Molly Sullivan
Yeah, I occasionally swim. Marquette unfortunately, doesn’t have a varsity team. So it’s been harder to get in the pool. And with COVID to you had to reserve a lane. So that also made it hard. So I’ve definitely you know, gotten used to other sports such as running so out of water sports have been my thing lately, but I have been involved in swim team. I swam last semester or last year at Marquette club swimming. So that was really fun. And I also went to the club swim formal this past year, so it’s been a good time. But yeah, I definitely, definitely have my what I learned from swimming in my everyday life.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, no, I remember Visitation when you like you had broke so many records at busy. I remember that. Like, even as a freshman like you were on all these like relay teams. And with like all the cool upperclassmen. Good old times. I know you also work with Best Buddies and Special Olympics, which I think is so cool that you’re able to balance that with all the stuff that you have going on. So tell me a little bit about that. How did you get involved with those clubs?

Molly Sullivan
So for Special Olympics, I definitely have to say that’s the most memorable first interaction I’ve had at Marquette was someone [who was involved with Best Buddies]. At Marquette [there’s] organization fast. And basically, it’s like the clubs there, you get to know about the clubs get to sign up. So your interest, yada, yada, yada, very simple. And one of the first tables I actually saw when I walked in to the quad at our school was Special Olympics. And the guy at the table. He was a senior, and he was from Chicago. And he told me, Hey, you know, are you involved in anything yet? I’m like, No, I’m a freshman like, not really. It’s only day one here. So yes, so I actually signed up on a whim. And then Special Olympics basically has like a one week event, basically, like every week, you had to commit to volunteer at a sports clinic. During each season, there’s a different sport that you can volunteer for, such as bowling, basketball, yard, games, you name it, it’s it’s very broad and very low key. But that’s definitely a big thing that I’m, I’ve come to love. And I’ve gotten to meet a ton of people, not only in the special needs community, but also in the Greater Milwaukee community. So it’s been a great, great networking like thing. But it’s been awesome. Um, yeah, I’m also in Best Buddies. And basically, I’m a peer buddy. So I commit to talking to my buddy who was an IDD, which means intellectual or developmental disability. And I have to contact him once a week and then meet up with him at least once a month. With COVID. If I’m being honest, it was really hard to meet up with him solely because we had so many rules as well as like, testing before we met them type of things. So last year, I did not necessarily do too much with Best Buddies. But this year, I’ve actually gotten to know my buddy very well. His name is Harley, I meet up with him at least once a month, he’s 22 years old. So they’re very similar in age to us. But they definitely, you know, had taught me to be more patient more kind and how to be a good listener. So I definitely learned more, you know, from them and learn more about myself than anything, honestly.

Victoria Foley
Wow, that is so beautiful. And that’s so awesome. And at Visitation you did a lot of service as well, right?

Molly Sullivan
I did. Yeah, I was then a whopping 15 clubs over my time at this station. So yeah, I could say I was in a few um, but yeah, no, I think for me, like my parents, they raised me to get out and you know, get to know your community that you’re a part of and being able to serve others is such a privilege and you know, won’t only just benefit the person it’ll also benefit yourself sometimes. So I think I kind of took that mindset to college and because of that, it made me more social and I actually have gotten really close with the members of those clubs. So yeah, I definitely, definitely have taken what I’ve learned visitation through the clots to Mark had.

Victoria Foley
Yeah. So what inspired you to recently join the E-board? Or the executive board? I’m not sure what you call it, you know, at the different universities. But yeah, what made you now take on that bigger leadership role in Special Olympics?

Molly Sullivan
So for me, I think honestly, as I mentioned before, freshman year, that was one of the first things I got involved in, and it kind of just struck like, such a good vibe in me. And it made me want to learn more, not only about the club, but ways to get involved. So my friend, she reached out to me saying, hey, you know, I think he’s a great person for E-board. Like, I would highly recommend that you run for a position. And this was during COVID. Like, I, I was not expecting, you know, election season happen, you know, but they were online. So I literally submitted my eboard application when I was in a car, like driving to Milwaukee to pick up my stuff, because locked down, and it was very on a whim. But once I got the election results, they said, “Hey, you can either be this or that.” And one of the options was athletic director. And for me, as you know, you know, sports is something that I value very highly. And I think, you know, mixing up the clubs that I love most and service that I love a ton with sports would only make it even better, I think it was a great mix. So that’s why I chose athletic director. And then for the pre op club, basically, my good friend who was actually my tutor was the president of that club. And she told me, “Hey, I think it’d be a great fit.” And, you know, it’s the same as Special Olympics basically, applied on a whim, you know, it was last year when I applied. So I’ve definitely gotten used to it. But Special Olympics I’ve been involved in the most over the past few years.

Victoria Foley
Wow. And that’s so cool that you combine like your favorite thing, which is like sports and then now you’re able to share that share that passion with others. So during COVID, you’ve already identified like, it’s been really hard to even just more people in person. So with Special Olympics and Best Buddies, how have you guys been able to overcome that?

Molly Sullivan
So I think for us, if I’m being honest, it was a lot of trial and error. A lot of the people that we work with are actually part of the public schools in our area. And Milwaukee, the public schools are not necessarily as funded as the schools in DC are. A lot of families are low income, and they couldn’t afford to do online classes because they couldn’t have computers or anything. So the same goes for getting a vaccine, I think for them, the access to health care was really difficult during COVID. And because of that we couldn’t volunteer with them until they could get vaccinated. So that being said, it definitely took some patience, lots of trial and error. But eventually, once March ish came around, almost everyone in the area, regardless of their income status, got the vaccines. So once that happened, we started to get to do more in person events. But in all honesty, it was mostly online. So I think for us, we just tried our best to fundraise, you know, because fundraising to be online, regardless. So we actually had a huge fundraiser in February before everyone get vaccinated. And we basically raised online for these people. And I think that was the best idea that we could have done in the midst of a time of uncertainty and not knowing when we’re all going to get vaccinated. So that was a big thing that we did during COVID That I think was very meaningful as well as impactful. Yeah.

Victoria Foley
What was the fundraiser? How did you guys do that online?

Molly Sullivan
So basically, the name of our fundraiser is called the polar fund. And it sounds really weird. It sounds really weird. But basically, for Special Olympics, they normally do, like, you raise this amount of money, I’ll go jump in a freezing pool or pond or lake or somewhere really cold, you know, so it’s kind of like, you do this for me, I’ll do that, you know, so, um, basically, with COVID being involved, we had raised money online, I sent out a link to my family friends, sent out emails to my roommates, and yada yada yada tried to get as much money as we could. And in fact, our goal was $500 and we actually raised $4,000 Online COVID. So that was a huge bill. Yeah. And then once we achieve that goal by a lot more than we thought, um, we actually set up times that Were COVID friendly for all of the eboard members to get primed with water. Nice.

Victoria Foley
That’s crazy and immediately when you said polar plunge, I imagine people like running in like, in like the most coldest conditions. Wow, good for you guys. And that’s so creative.

Molly Sullivan
Thank you! Yeah, typically it actually happens usually at the Milwaukee County Zoo. And they opened up like a little pool area that I don’t think animals are supposed to live in there. But that pool was empty. And people would basically jump into it and walk you winners, in all honesty are very cool. And I mean, you could say the same probably about, you know, New England winters. It’s not fun to wear, you know, one less layer. So that’s what we typically do. But with COVID, we just poured a bucket of ice on top of each other, and it was really fun. So

Victoria Foley
Wow, that’s incredible. And I really am so happy you guys like literally what you guys like quadruple the amount that you ask for. Math, it’s like eight. Okay, eight times. Right?

Molly Sullivan
Yeah, eight times. Well, yeah. And I mean, I think, you know, with everyone being online, they got to see, um, you know, the efforts we’ve made there, like Instagram posts. And because of that, you know, despite COVID Being a factor, we still raised a ton of money, which, you know, I’m proud to say was a very unexpected goal of ours, and I’m really proud as to how it turned out. Yeah.

Victoria Foley
Yeah. So actually, that reminds me about like the fundraisers that you oftentimes, like, did it visitation, and probably even some bake sales, I feel like bake sales are so popular, you know what I’m saying? Yeah. And I also remember you were really involved in your faith, you were a Eucharistic minister, like I said, did a lot of like service trips and stuff? So I was wondering, like, how does your faith fuel your service?

Molly Sullivan
Since I was a child, my dad, who attended Georgetown Prep, and then Villanova University, which are both Jesuit schools, he basically raised me through the quote, being a woman, for others, Prep is known to have the quote, man for others. And of course, you know, he had to change that having two daughters. I was just raised on that flow, being a woman for others. And through that, it really is stems not only my love for service, but also my feet, you know, it’s made me really grounded. And I tried my best to get involved with visitation and, you know, impact others while also trying to grow deeper in my faith. And I think visitation honestly did a great job with the opportunities they gave us, throughout the DC area, as well as throughout the school itself. So yeah, so I mean, it’s definitely influenced almost all the search service work that I do. I think in Milwaukee, it’s definitely been hard with COVID trying to do that, but I still try my best to, you know, make simple service acts through, you know, fundraising, or, you know, just reaching out to someone, you know, service is a very broad word, but, you know, try to connect to some faith as much as I can.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, I think it’s so great, that service can be so broad, right? Because then you can incorporate in like, all of your, you know, daily routines and whatnot. And I want to know, like you, you are able to bounce so much, and steward so gracefully. And what is one of the ways that you’re able to do that what keeps you grounded during like, these really, you know, like, high intensity times, like, I’m sure during finals week, it was probably like a lot of work for you.

Molly Sullivan
I was definitely ready to get home in all honesty, once final week, came along. So it’s definitely stressful, I can admit, but a good quote that I actually keep in my back of my head, when it comes to preparation is this quote that says, if you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail. Sale, basically, that means, you know, if you don’t prepare ahead of time, you know, you won’t do as well as you were supposed to. So I think for me, just preparation is a huge thing. I’m in the midst of, you know, chaotic week. So about every Sunday, usually after mass, I just go over, you know, what I, you know, have planned for the week, and then, you know, try to figure out like, what can I commit to what I can what sacrifices can I make this week, it’s all it’s all balanced. But you know, I think that’s what college has really taught me how to balance your time and what you love to do and what you need to do. So that’s that’s what I tried to do.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, that’s a really awesome quote. Wow. You’ve just always remember that you just kind of remember that even throughout like high school and everything. Did you have or maybe you still had like one of those like really big planners were you like put out all your work.

Molly Sullivan
Yeah, I’m trying to find in my room. It’s it’s somewhere. Oh, yeah, it it’s definitely the same size as the visitation planners. But to give you a visual, this is how big it is. It’s bigger than my head. So I definitely, you know, give props to the planner for sure.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, yeah, no, I like I like live by my Google Calendar. Like i i Actually, I literally sent you a Google invite, like, you see what I’m saying? Like, that’s the way that I that I like, sort everything out. But yeah, so um, this is a question actually, as someone who also does, well, 3d is like, kind of like Best Buddies, but like Amherst version, and okay, so within the club, because sometimes it’s just so hard to like, you know, when it’s virtual, or even when you’re, like, socially distant, like, how do you do just a regular activity and make it fun? So my question is, what do you recommend, like for people in like 3d and other clubs like that? Like, what can we do to make the meetings fun?

Molly Sullivan
For sure. So first off, I want to admit, that’s an awesome club that you’re a part of, oh, it’s really unique. It’s definitely very similar to Best Buddies. And just reading about what you said, you know, a weekly thing. I think there are many similarities with that, and Best Buddies and Special Olympics. But I think for me, this kind of goes towards more Best Buddies. But I think just like, I don’t know how your club necessarily works out. But you said you build a community with adults. Um, I think for me, I really tried my best to build my relationship with my best buddy through phone calls. In the midst of COVID, it was so hard to like, find it in person time and find a time where I wasn’t exposed to COVID. And, you know, God forbid, I get any of these people that I’m working with sick. So I think the safest way. And honestly, the most convenient way is phone call, you know, you don’t have to take too much time out of your day to do it. I usually give phone calls to my buddy on the way to class, or if I’m bored, or if I’m about to fall asleep, you know, it’s just like calling your parents you know, it doesn’t take too much time. Or at least for me, it doesn’t take too much time. But um, you know, it’s a very easy way of doing it. And then maybe just meeting up with them for lunch or dinner, depending on you know, if COVID is not necessarily a thing that worries you guys, that would be good.

Victoria Foley
Yeah, no, for sure. I think definitely having one on one phone calls is something that I got to work on. Because we tried a few like pilots with like letter writings. And in the beginning, like it goes well, but then you know, you kind of like lose track. And there’s something to be said about, like, having that like one on one. But yes, for sure. We’ll definitely check that out. So the last and final question is something that all the guests on the show get asked, and that question is, what is one daily act of kindness or service that everyone can do every day?

Molly Sullivan
I really thought about this question, because it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to come up with, right off the top of my head. There’s so many answers, I could say. But I think a big thing that I’ve learned from this semester, as well as the rest of my college career, is that, um, it’s not just talking, that can be a kind gesture, but listening. And I think for me, listening with intention is something that, you know, wouldn’t necessarily come off as a huge kind gesture. But you know, it’s very simple, but very high, you know, people pay attention to what you’re speaking to them about, you know, you appreciate that. So, I think just, you know, listening to someone with, you know, having the intention of, you know, getting to know them would be a way of being kind to another, and you know, you not only care about conversation by doing that, but also the person that’s speaking so I could definitely say that’s a daily act of kindness that someone can easily do every day.

Victoria Foley
Wow. And that’s so simple. I love how that’s so easy. It doesn’t even involve much, you just you just simply listen. So, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! I’m so stoked to share this!

Molly Sullivan
Of course! Thank you so much for having me! It’s such a little treat.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Hey friends! It’s Victoria here! It’s so neat that Molly combines service with her love for sports, right? It’s totally doable to make your job and extracurriculars something fun. I really loved the way that she also provided some tips as to how to make your events and communities more engaged during this pandemic when we’re online and fundraising looks so much different. She said that she really loved how phone calls were a way to bond with her best buddy. Refresher for those unfamiliar with the organization Best Buddies: it’s an international global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). That description was right out of their website, which will be found in the show notes! Perhaps you can find a local chapter, they’re popular on college campuses, and get a buddy! Sooooo… Back to what Molly was saying: phone calls are super easy because you can do it on your way to class, doing dishes, walking the dog, and as Molly does, even before falling asleep.

One of the things that amuses my mom about my generation is that we prefer texting over phone calling. That’s a universal concept, right? For my mom, she 1000% prefers a phone call. So, for me, I love texting over phone calling because you can do it right away even if the person does not have their phone on them. Voice memos are cool, too, and super popular on WhatsApp. But, for me, a random text out of the blue, just saying hi or like a compliment goes a longgggg way. It seriously makes my day. 

Soooo… I imagine a cute text or message or email or phone call like that probably lifts you up too, right? Therefore, here is my question for this episode:

Who is someone you can send a quick text of love to?

Note that I said a quick text. It doesn’t have to be long or a love letter. Text a person a compliment. Congratulate someone on something you forgot to congratulate them on. Maybe you can even reply to a Facebook or Instagram comment with more than just a few emojis. Write them a little comment about how cool they are. Stuff like that! If you wanna share with me what you texted someone or who you texted, DM me on my Instagram @talkbyvictoria or email me at victoria@talkbyvictoria.com. Thank you so much for tuning in, and definitely check out this episode’s show notes to get involved with Special Olympics or Best Buddies. Plusss, check out talkbyvictoria.com/service for even more ways to give back to the world.

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