At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, more than 100 Elon community members — mostly Elon University student athletes — gathered on the hill beside Irwin Belk Track to pray, sing and share stories about freshman Molly Offstein. Offstein, a cross country runner and Honors Fellow, was struck by a car on her morning jog Monday and is now in a medically induced coma at the UNC hospital.
The hourlong vigil was organized by students in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, who invited religious leaders from the community to sing and pray along with University Chaplain Jan Fuller and FCA adviser Alex Mebane. John Adams, pastor of students at Grove Park Church in Burlington, led the group in songs, and David Grinnell, senior paster at People's Memorial Christian Church, quoted scripture and asked those in attendance to split into small prayer groups.
"If you don't know what to say, that's fine. That's cool," Mebane said. "If you can simply talk with sincerity in your heart, then you know how to pray . . . Pray for Molly as you feel led."
Junior thrower Bryanna Hames helped lead the event, leading all in attendance in the final prayer.
"It's absolutely amazing to see very single team supporting her," Hames said. "That's never happened. I'm an FCA leader, and it's great to see every single team just come together and show love and support and pray."
Toward the end of the vigil, Elon women's cross country head coach Nick Polk spoke about Offstein's drive as a member of the Elon cross country team, Western Maryland Track Runner of the Year in 2015 and valedictorian of her high school class.
"She was up at 7 a.m. going for a run because it was who she was," Polk said. "She was tough, she was going to do anything she could to get better.
"When I come back to my job and the rest of the season that we have in coaching the kids that I have in the team, I'm going to do everything that I can to not take any single day for granted."
Polk said he had gotten texts from Offstein's mother earlier in the evening asking him to "keep the love and prayers flowing."
The vigil was followed by food and card-signing in the Walker Room of Alumni Field House. Student athletes wrote messages to Offstein in sharpie on neon posterboards, mingling and sharing stories.
"The power that was there, it brought me to tears," Hames said. "It's really really hard to believe that there's this many people that are coming together. But Molly's wonderful, she's funny — she's shy, but she's funny. She's strong."
Students can also make cards at noon Friday in the McBride Gathering Space in Numen Lumen Pavilion. University chaplains will also be leading prayers and reflection for Offstein, and they will collect and deliver cards from the event.
"We're going through it, but we're staying together, we're staying strong," Hames said. "It was amazing to have everyone here, just being together. Within athletics [the community] is so strong, every single athlete, like you felt the love, and that's incredible and I couldn't thank the athletic department and the athletic teams enough."
Molly Offstein's vigil is closing with a final prayer. The vigil was hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Elon pic.twitter.com/E65lmAyiF8— Diego Pineda (@Diego_Pineda19) March 10, 2017