When we established the SPRTER College Impact Awards (formerly the Athlete CRUSH College Impact Awards), we wanted to discover inspirational and influential student-athletes from across the nation. The submissions we receive are ALL incredible, however this year there was one entrant that our judges could not go past.
The story of young Gracie Zaunbrecher and Lexie Priessman is something that really tugged at our heartstrings here at SPRTER, and we are proud to announce Lexie as the 2019 Random Act of Kindness winner! No one can tell you the story better than Lexie herself. We were lucky enough to speak with Lexie and find out a bit more about her passion for helping others:
Congratulations Lexie! Could you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and what helped shaped who you are today?
My name is Lexie Priessman. I was a gymnast for 18 years. I had the privilege to represent Team USA for four years and it was so special. To sum up my elite career as simply as possible, it was one big rollercoaster ride. Dealing with injuries and pushing through them, led me to multiple surgeries. After my time as an elite athlete, I decided it was time to move on from the Olympic path and head to LSU for college. I was honored to compete in front of and for the fans, athletic department, staff, teammates, family, Louisiana State University, and a certain somebody I get to now call my guardian angel. I thought my college career would have been less of a rollercoaster ride than my elite career, but to be honest it was even more difficult. I can tell you one thing, if it wasn’t for Gracie, I’m not sure my college career would have ended on such a positive note. I’m so thankful for that sweet girl and everything she taught me in two short years.
That is such an inspirational story. What are some of the charity projects you’ve supported?
I have been part of many community service opportunities throughout my college career. Visiting our hospital in Louisiana, plenty of elementary schools and kindergartens, food banks, and lots of other community service events. Giving back to the community meant the world to me, always.
What are the main motivations that drive you to have such a passion to help others?
To be honest, sometimes I wonder what it is. Speaking with others and hearing them say I have a kind heart and a smile that lights up the room brings me so much joy. I don’t ever wonder should I go do this? Should I go be part of that? Should I do that community service? I just do it. It’s never a question in my mind. I always trust my heart and I remind myself of everyone that supported me throughout my life. I will forever and always give my heart to those around me. Life’s too short to focus on just yourself. I pray every day to be more like Jesus and make an impact on the lives around me. To anyone reading this, love, give, and share the light the Lord has given you.
We know you developed a particularly special connection with one child. Could you tell us about Gracie?
Gracie Zaunbrecher is now our sweet angel. Gracie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. But, let me tell you, that little girl never gave up. Gracie lived with a smile on her face, her arms wide open for hugs, and the biggest heart you could ever imagine. Gracie was more than a little girl fighting every day to see the next day, she was an inspiration to every person that read her story or had the chance to meet her. The minute I met Gracie, there was a bond there that was something special. I instantly felt the joy and love from the beaming smile on her face. Gracie loved doing gymnastics, just like me, but the only difference was her career came to an end sooner than planned. The day I met Gracie, gymnastics was NEVER the same again. I never walked into the gym again without a purpose. I wrote her name on my wrist, put pictures of her in my locker, and wrote on my mirror. I was able to finish my career because of her. Gymnastics wasn’t about me anymore, it was about her. I wasn’t only finishing out my career, but hers as well. If you didn’t have the chance to meet Gracie, just know she was one heck of a fighter and she’s now flipping in heaven with the same smile on her face.
That is such an inspirational story! Can you tell us about the scholarship you helped set up in Gracie’s honor?
We’re so excited that there will be a scholarship in Gracie’s name. Many people are giving to this scholarship, whether they met her or just followed the story, because she meant so much to the gymnastics team and the LSU community. It’s so exciting watching something we talked about come to reality. Thank you to everyone who has helped us get here today. All your donations mean so much to us.
The endowment fund will help with tuition and housing expenses for future LSU gymnasts.
Thanks for speaking with us Lexie. What does the future hold for you?
I’m hoping to continue giving to others. I find it so heart-warming when you’re helping other people out. Giving back to the community and to others is so important. Life is too short to only focus on yourself. The more I focus on helping others, the more everything that’s supposed to fall into place for me has and hopefully will continue to. I’m coaching gymnastics right now and giving back to the sport I’ve loved since I was a little girl. I hope to become the best coach I can be, but more importantly the best mentor to the girls I’m coaching!
Lexie’s story is exactly what we were looking for for the SPRTER College Impact Random Act of Kindness Award.
Lexie wants her $531 winning donation to go to the Cannonballs for Kayne Foundation, a research foundation dedicated to finding a cure for DIPG, the type of aggressive brain tumor that Gracie had. If you want to contribute to Lexie’s and our efforts in supporting Cannonballs for Kayne, please click on the link above!
Lexie, we cannot begin to describe how amazing everything that you have done in this little angel’s name is. I know she is looking down on you and smiling.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you our 2019 SPRTER College Impact Random Act of Kindness Award Winner, Lexie Priessman!
Make sure to follow her on SPRTER, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to follow her future endeavors!
SPRTER: Lexie Priessman