Olympian Ryan Held’s Inspirational Secret Santa Gift Goes Viral

Retta Race
by Retta Race 10

December 12th, 2016 News

‘Tis the season for Secret Santa gift exchanges where friends, co-workers and even swimming teammates give and receive gifts, most often anonymously until the sneaky parties involved are revealed. As we’re in 2016, the tradition has evolved to even take place on the web. Recently approximately 25,000 users of the social media photo sharing app, Imgur, participated in its version of the gift-giving venture, one which took an unexpected turn for a certain participant.

When Brittany Del Rocco of Warrenton, Virginia opened her random package from her Imgur gift-giver, she let out a yelp of excitement. Included in her package was a signed swim cap, complete with the American flag and a letter from its owner explaining his recent inspirational journey. The gift-giver? None other than 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held.

“I had a legitimate freak out. I turned the envelope back over and this time paid attention to the name @Heldilox Ryan Held, Olympic gold medal swimmer. Cue the second total freak out!,” says fellow Imgur user Del Rocco. Held was a member of the United States’ gold medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay and is now famous for his heartfelt reaction atop the podium.

Per her Imgur profile, Held knew that Del Rocco was a school teacher and took the opportunity to provide some motivation to his gift recipient’s students. Below are the images of both the letter from Held to Del Rocco, as well as the letter intended for her students.

courtesy of Brittany Del Rocco


courtesy of Brittany Del Rocco

As for the expressive words from the Olympian, Del Rocco says, “It was one of the greatest letters I have ever received. I started tearing up and shaking.”

“I teach middle school English. I raise the bar and set high goals for each of my students, and teach them to do the same for themselves. Having this message reiterated here will be even more motivation for them to do so- this will be framed in my classroom and shared with every group that comes through my door!”

Thus far, the images have upwards of 420,478 views and continues to be circulated around various social media platforms.

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Maren A

Way to go Ryan Held. Love these stories.

Steve Nolan

Even his signature is adorable.

G Lee

What a wonderful human being. Ryan will forever be remembered for that famous cry. America loves Ryan Held.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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