A boy needed $126,000 for cancer treatment. This athlete sold his Olympic medal to help.

Poland's Piotr Malachowski is one of the world's top discus throwers.

He has a solid Olympic record. He won a silver medal in Beijing during the 2008 games, and is also the proud owner of the fifth-longest discus throw ever: 71.84 meters (FYI, that's really far).

But at the Rio Olympics, the competition was intense. If Malachowski wanted to take home a medal, it would be one of the biggest challenges of his life.


In the end, he was narrowly edged out by a German competitor for the gold in Rio. But still, he was plenty proud to take home another silver medal for his country.

Malachowski warms up. Photo by Ranck Fife/AFP/Getty Images.

Now a two-time Olympic medalist, Malachowski was flooded with congratulations and well wishes after his final throw.

But one letter of congratulations stood out to him because it was from a mother desperate for his help.

Her name was Goshia, Malachowski wrote, and her 3-year-old son, Olek, was suffering from a rare form of cancer known as retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye.

Though the disease is treatable, Goshia wrote to Malachowski that the only way to save her son's eyesight was to take him to New York City for treatment by a top ophthalmologist. Needless to say, that would be far too expensive for her family to afford on its own.

When a child is gravely ill, there's almost nothing their parent wouldn't do .... including writing to Olympic athletes for help.

Malachowski proudly waves the Polish flag. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

When Malachowski heard Olek's story, he knew the timing was "fate." He decided he had to help.

An organization called Siepomaga had already raised a significant amount of money for Olek's treatment, but there was a long way to go. The total fundraising goal was around $126,000.

So the Olympian ponied up the most valuable thing he owned — his most recent silver medal.

In a Facebook post, he told his followers he was putting his prized medal up for auction to cover the rest of the costs:

Zdobycie medalu olimpijskiego to dla sportowca spełnienie życiowych marzeń. Oczywiście najcenniejszy jest ten złoty....

Posted by Piotr Małachowski on Friday, August 19, 2016

"In Rio I fought for gold," he wrote. "Today I call on all people — let us fight together for something that is even more valuable. For the health of this fantastic boy."

The auction lasted only a few days before a wealthy brother and sister made Malachowski a private offer he couldn't refuse.

ESPN reported that the top bid for Piotr's medal was roughly $19,000 before the final offer came in. Though he didn't share the exact amount, Malachowski made it clear in another Facebook post that the final sale price was enough to cover the rest of Olek's treatment.

"Thank you everyone who took part in the auction," he wrote. "We were able to show that together we can make miracles. My silver medal today is worth much more than a week ago."

Malachowski's massively selfless act is only the beginning of this story. 3-year-old Olek still has a long fight ahead of him.

Hopefully, with the world's top doctors working tirelessly to treat his disease, he can come out on top. We're rooting for you, buddy.

And as for Malachowski himself, he may be down one medal. But after this priceless gift, he's certainly earned the right to be called the people's champion forever.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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