A Pickerington junior high school student last month was invited to visit Washington, D.C., to perform a ballet routine at a national ceremony honoring children of Reserve and National Guard members.
Molly Frey, a seventh-grader at Pickerington Lakeview Junior High, recently was one of four youths in the U.S. to be selected as a Military Kid of the Year.
Frey received the award from Our Military Kids, a national nonprofit organization which supports children of deployed and severely injured National Guard and Military Reserve personnel through grants for sports, fine arts and tutoring that nurture and sustain the children during the time a parent is away in service to our country.
Frey was nominated for the award by her mother, Renee Frey, a senior master sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard, after Molly and her brother Jacob -- a freshman at Pickerington High School North -- last year each received $500 grants from Our Military Kids to attend summer camps.
They received the grants, in part, because their father, Ohio Air Reserve Guard Senior Master Sgt. Kim Frey, was away on a seven-month deployment, including six months at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.
Jacob used his grant to attend a Nike Golf Camp, while Molly, who celebrated her 13th birthday May 2, participated in a four-week BalletMet Columbus Summer Intensive Program.
"The grants are fantastic," Renee Frey said.
"I think it gives the kids something to focus on, something positive, and it keeps their minds off the deployment.
"Not only that, it gave them something to share with their dad when they would talk to him on FaceTime."
Molly Frey said the grant allowed her to hone her skills over the summer. She's been dancing five days a week at BalletMet since she was 5 years old.
Before that she took ballet at a local dance center and she said the summer program further bolstered her dream of dancing professionally.
"I got started in ballet because I wanted to be a figure skater," Frey said. "After I started, I kind of forgot about being a figure skater and developed a passion for ballet.
"I just love dancing. It clears my mind and it's so much fun. I love performing. It always makes me have a huge smile when I'm on stage."
Frey said that smile was present at Lakeview a couple months back when her mother surprised her by coming to the school and announcing that Molly had been selected as a Military Kid of the Year.
While Frey knew her mother had applied in her behalf, she didn't expect to receive the award.
"This is a nationwide award and there are kids that have done a ton of good things," she said. "My mom came to my school and told my whole class I won.
"I won't forget that."
According to Our Military Kids, Frey was selected because, in addition to being an "excellent ballet dancer," she is an accomplished figure skater and sailor, and had has helped raise money for breast cancer awareness by participating in Skate for Hope.
She also volunteers to support military families through Operation Baking GALS (Give a Little Support).
As a result, Frey and her mother were flown to Washington, D.C., April 24 for a four-day trip. Her father and brother also drove out to join them.
While in the nation's capital, Frey and her family met with U.S. Sen. Steve Stivers (R-15th District), and got to tour the Pentagon.
Renee Frey said the Pentagon visit was particularly moving because the family witnessed the portion of the facility repaired after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as a section of benches memorializing each person killed in the attack.
Additionally, Frey was invited onto the field at Nationals Park prior to a game between the Washington Nationals and her favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds. She got an up-close look at her favorite player, Joey Votto, and posed for a photo with Reds' manager Dusty Baker.
"I'm a big Reds fan," Frey said. "I got my picture taken with Dusty Baker and I had a huge smile on my face."
The culmination of the trip was the April 26 Our Military Kids ceremony to honor four Military Kid of the Year recipients.
There, Frey met Gabby Douglas, also known as "The Flying Squirrel" for her skill and heroics in earning two gold medals for the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team during the 2012 Summer Olympics, and Griffin Steinfeld, a driver in the NASCAR K&N West Series.
That's also where Frey performed her ballet routine.
"Molly did a fantastic job," Renee Frey said. "She looked beautiful.
"It was definitely a trip of a lifetime."
Molly Frey concurred, and said she was happy the award earned both her school and her favorite teacher, Greg DeVoe, $500 grants from Our Military Kids.
Still, she said the highlight was not rubbing elbows with professional athletes or members of Congress, but rather meeting and spending time with the other three Military Kid of the Year winners, who hailed from Florida, New Orleans and San Diego.
"One of the things I really enjoyed about the trip was I got to meet the other three kids and their families," she said. "They made the trip way better than I could imagine.
"I really appreciate all the things Our Military Kids did. It's really nice that we're appreciated."