Molly Troxel, 15, was born with a type of live-in-the-moment fearlessness. She rock-climbs and zip-lines, has no problem singing in front of a crowd and loves to downhill ski.
“I want to be a Paralympic skier,” she says.
A host of health challenges? Molly was born with those too. An inherited disease called Leber congenital amaurosis severely impacts her ability to see the world around her.
“I can’t see in low light or no light. I can’t see things far away and my peripheral vision isn’t that great. I get colors confused sometimes.”
The Burke High School freshman also lives with severe epilepsy, hypothyroidism, scoliosis and celiac disease. While part of her life has been consumed by surgeries, MRIs and specialist visits, that is not the part she dwells on.
“She wakes up with a smile every day and is ready to tackle whatever comes her way,” says her mother, Laura Troxel. “She rarely gets down. She has such a positive outlook and a way of wheedling herself into everyone’s heart.”
Her dad, Ryan Troxel, marvels at her drive.“Molly’s very competitive. … She wants to be the first one on the zip-line. That’s just how she’s wired. At ONI, they provide all those things that she can do.”
ONI is Outlook Nebraska Inc., a multifaceted nonprofit that has been improving the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired since 2000 – and Molly’s life since 2015.
Monthly recreational outings guided by adaptive sports specialists backed by volunteers connect Molly and her visually-impaired peers to experiences that might previously have been unthinkable: ice skating with the Omaha Jr. Lancers, golfing at Indian Creek, zip-lining and snow skiing at Mount Crescent.
“When I started skiing, I was really good at it – even my instructor said. I went down the biggest hill and learned how to do things that they weren’t planning on teaching. I just wanted to keep skiing,” Molly recalls.
She has become quite good at goalball, a Paralympic sport that involves using teamwork and one’s body to prevent a clanging ball from crossing the goal line.
“Kendrick, my ski instructor, tried, and he said, ‘That was so intense.’” (Players who are not visually-impaired wear goggles to level the playing field.)
With a charitable contribution from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, ONI co-sponsors Camp Abilities in the summer. Molly attended last year and plans to return for the weeklong session this July.
“That’s a fun camp,” she says. “You do sports every day. You play goalball and other sports that are accommodated for the visually-impaired. My counselor was on the UNO swim team. She taught me how to swim.”
Thanks to ONI’s audio description program, Molly has experienced live theater as an audience member. Feb. 23-25, she’ll be part of the chorus in Burke’s production of “Shrek, the Musical.” As much as she enjoys singing, that is not her career goal. Molly wants to be an elementary school teacher, taking a cue from her mentors at ONI.
“They work with kids, and I want to work with kids.”
The team at ONI says Molly is a great example of someone who is taking full advantage of the opportunities the organization provides. Next year, she will embark on yet another one – when she becomes an ONI intern. (ONI’s primary service is employment. It is the largest employer of the blind and visually impaired in Nebraska.)
With everything she has been able to do through ONI, Molly says it feels like a dream. Mom says it has been empowering – and they could not be more grateful.
“They are so compassionate and really incredible mentors. They listen and know the importance of Molly’s limitations and still make it possible for her to succeed,” Laura says. “They want everyone to succeed.” That, say Mom and Dad, is the plan for Molly – success.
“Everyone knows Molly is visually-impaired … but she never lets that stop her,” her dad says.
“If you live in the moment,” Molly says, “you’re not afraid.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same. In partnership with the Omaha World-Herald.