Polish track and field Olympian Maria Andrejczyk is paying it forward to a baby boy battling a heart condition.
Andrejczyk, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2018, returned to the world stage and earned the javelin throw silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On Aug. 11, she announced on Facebook she was auctioning off her prized medal with the goal of raising about $180,000 to help Miloszek Małysa, an 8-month-old Polish boy, fly to the United States and get surgery for a heart defect.
"Miłoszek, like our Antoś, has a serious heart defect [and] he needs an operation," she wrote in her native language, explaining that the surgery costs about $390,000 total. Andrejczyk, 25, said his family already has funds from another patient Kubuś, "a boy who did not make it on time, but wonderful people decided to donate his funds," she said.
The athlete continued, "This is how I want to help too... I am auctioning off my Olympic silver medal. Together with Miłosz's mother and my manager, we were thinking about the most efficient way to conduct the fundraiser."
The auction began at about $50,000 and, by Aug. 16, she had found a winning bidder. She said her fans "worked miracles and together you have contributed" greatly to his cause.
"I decided to end the auction so that our Miłosz would receive the entire amount as soon as possible and could fly to the USA," she said, revealing that the Polish supermarket company Żabka was the winner.
"I will be eternally grateful," Andrejczyk wrote. She added that the medal "is a symbol of struggle, faith and the pursuit of dreams despite many adversities. I hope that for you it will be a symbol of the life we fought for together."
She knows firsthand what it's like to battle a serious illness, after she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma three years ago.
"It was not something very dangerous and I knew I could make a quick recovery," she said in 2020, according to World Athletics. "It was a soft cancer and I didn't have to go through chemotherapy."
Andrejczyk had surgery and resumed her training three weeks later.
"I just want to be healthy first," she told the organization. "If I stay healthy I can then show what I'm capable of... I still love that feeling of improving through training. Javelin has made me a better person. It brings me joy."