Grimes is a scholarship recipient of the Coca-Cola Scholar Foundation, a nationally recognized program that provides more than $3.4 million annually in scholarships, making her eligible for nomination to run with the torch.
Michelle Freeman, CEO of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a non-profit arts presentation organization, nominated Grimes for this honor.
Freeman says that Grimes deserves the honor because she has witnessed the young athlete’s evident passion to help others since the age of two.
“This is a young woman who—whether we needed the time or needed volunteers—has always put her hand up and said, ‘I will help,’” Freeman said.
“You just don’t meet many people in your life who have that engrained in them. That runs deep in Marisa. Whether it’s hurricane relief or an orphanage in Africa or working at the Freeman State, this woman who is constantly there and willing to help. She stands out at a time when a lot of young people aren’t expecting that attitude.”
Grimes’ mother, Patti Grimes, is also involved with the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a non-profit arts presentation organization where more than 60 percent of the shows are free and open to the public.
Even with her position as executive director, Patti said she had no idea her daughter was a contender for the torch run.
“Michelle and Marisa knew about it before her dad and I because there was a lot of screening with the U.S. Olympics, Coca-Cola, and the London committee. Marisa actually found out last fall, but had to keep it under wraps until recently,” Patti said.
With a life focused on community outreach, Grimes said she was nominated for three specific activities.
“I’ve been volunteering since I was four, but I was nominated for three main things,” Grimes said.
“The first would be my trip to Ghana to help the non-profit orphanage, Building Bright Future. What we do is provide funds to cover the cost of the 103 children living in the orphanage that we actually worked in summer 2008.”
Grimes says that her second most memorable act of volunteerism was starting All In For Alabama, which is a campaign to raise supplies for the victims of the tornados that devastated Tuscaloosa in 2011.
Before college, Grimes was the president of her high school’s volunteer club where she succeeded in her third most notable volunteer project, Operation Tumaini.
“Tumaini of Operation Tumaini means ‘hope’ in Swahili,” Grimes said.
“We pair up with an impoverished school in Kenya to help benefit by raising money. We raised enough money for all of the students to get uniforms.”
Despite her numerous accomplishments, Marisa never thought she would have the opportunity to hold the position of torchbearer in the Olympics.
“I knew I was nominated, but I just forgot about it because I never thought I’d win something like that, “ Grimes said.
Upon receiving the unexpected news of her daughter’s participation in the Olympics, Patti Grimes insisted that her husband learn to run backwards in order to play the role of photographer.
“Marisa is a humble person so I think it is nice that she can use her philanthropic endeavors in a beautiful way that continues to recognize and promote them,” Patti said.