The newest American Girl movie, An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars, will be available tomorrow, July 3, on Blu-ray Combo Pack/DVD (at Wal-Mart and American Girl retail stores) and through digital download. The movie is based on this year's American Girl doll of the year, McKenna, a determined young gymnast with big dreams who must learn to balance her priorities in order to be her best.
The film was screened over the weekend at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in San Jose, California, and my daughter and I were so excited to attend the trials and meet the lovely Jade Pettyjohn, who plays McKenna in the film. Jade attended the men's and women's gymnastics trials over the weekend as well, and signed autographs along with Olympic Champions Carly Patterson and Shannon Miller. (Pictured above, left: Carly Patterson, my daughter and I, and Jade Pettyjohn)
As we watched the Olympic trials, we were of course amazed by the athletic feats of both the men and women's teams. Watching the Olympics will be more exciting than ever for us, after having the experience of seeing the gymnasts compete and celebrating, and even crying, along with them. What really struck me, though, were the thousands of young girls who attended the events with stars in their eyes and big dreams in their own hearts.
The grounds around the stadium turned into an outdoor gym as hopeful young girls, inspired by watching their heroes compete, went straight outside to practice their sport. As a mom, my heart skipped several beats watching these girls do back handsprings and flips on concrete sidewalks and benches. But the girls got more out of the trials than watching their heroes making America proud as they competed for the coveted spots on the Olympic team. They also experience something America can be even more proud of in the examples of great sportsmanship, unity and love.
Throughout the men's and women's trials, athletes who fell or missed the mark were cheered even harder. Sure, the athletes who made the teams were celebrated and cheered with love, excitement and anticipation. But you know who got the most cheers and and resounding standing ovations? Nastia Liukin, when she fell during her bar routine, dashing her hopes of a second run at the games. And she got an even bigger show of support when she completed a successful beam routine. Her teammates hugged her, and many in the crowd got teary-eyed right along with them.
Pictured here are the outstanding gymnasts who will represent the U.S.A. in women's gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics in London: Gabrielle Douglas, Alexandra Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross. After the women's team was officially announced (the men's team had been announced previously), the stadium exploded with music, applause and red, white and blue confetti, along with excited chants of "U-S-A!"
For all those young girls watching, the event was nothing short of inspiring. The athletes gave admirable performances in every way. But what we don't see, is the hard road each had to walk to get to where they are, and the sacrifices they made along the way. For many athletes, Olympic dreams don't work out. So perspective is important, in gymnastics as with any other goal that has the possibility of consuming a child's life and defining her existence. So if you have one of those starry-eyed young girls aspiring to shoot for the stars, the new movie McKenna Shoots for the Stars addresses the subject of balance and perspective in an entertaining and positive way. Little girls who are fans of American Girl dolls, or gymnastics, or just great flicks, will love the movie, and there are several themes in the movie that can spark meaningful family discussions.
And if you want to find out more about the upcoming Olympics, check out the schedule on the London 2012 website. Coming soon, the site will have information about every athlete competing in the games, so find out all about them and pick your favorites. Only 25 days to go!
(Photo © Universal; Photo 2 credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Disclosure: Universal provided travel and expenses for the trip to cover this American Girl press event. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.)