The Floral Park High School Florettes varsity squad performed at the Long Island Kickline Association competition on Jan. 31 with the obvious goal of placing in the competition. But behind the scenes the team was just as focused on the memory of a friend whose impact helped lend frequent inspiration.
It’s been less than a year since the Florettes lost one of their own, although the young person and her cherished memory is always present in the form of “MQ”-initialed ribbons the team wears on their wrists to and from competitions.
“Mary Quinn showed us so much,” said coach Amy Morra. “We’ll never forget her.”
Floral Park ended up finishing first in its bracket (“Kickline Teams with 15 or More Members”), but before the win Morra stopped for a moment to discuss Mary.
Mary was an inclusion student at Floral Park High School who dealt with a number of health issues, and Morra — who also works as a special education and English teacher — knew Mary’s sister Margaret. When Mary was 12, Morra was among those who encouraged Mary to spend time with the team.
“She would march out with the girls during performances and line up with the team,” Amy explained, even though Mary would stop short of performing. “It was amazing to see, because she didn’t like being around big crowds… but she would hold hands with [a team member] and make it out there. She loved being with the team so much, and they loved her.”
“She changed everything,” Amy later said, describing how the kickline teams were always inspired by her smile and “her spirit, her energy — it was so good for the team… her spirit affected everybody.”
Mary died in April 2015 at the age of 16, and the team has worked to honor Mary beyond wearing ribbons.
“The girls are now working with a whole group of different inclusion students,” Morra said, and will also get involved with a nonprofit foundation recently established in Mary’s name.
With a touch of sadness that she couldn’t hide, Morra explained before rejoining the team during the competition, “All of what’s happened since doesn’t mean Mary’s gone… we all feel she’s with us every day. Whenever we perform on a cloudy day and the sun comes out, we’re like, ‘That’s Mary!”
The sun was definitely shining on Floral Park that Sunday.