Needham native Aly Raisman, the six-time Olympic medalist who helped the “Final Five” break all kinds of records at last year’s Rio Games, was in Dorchester this week to promote mattress company Leesa’s efforts to help the Boston homeless shelter Heading Home.
The 23-year-old gymnast, who became a brand ambassador for Leesa after the Olympics, was on hand for the company’s donation of dozens of mattresses to Heading Home. (As part of Leesa’s “One-Ten Program,” the company donates one mattress for every 10 it sells.)
Raisman was sweet with the children staying at the Devon Street shelter, one of eight Heading Home shelters throughout Dorchester and Roxbury.
“It’s just incredible to be able to go upstairs with these kids and watch them open up the mattress and just to see how excited they are,” Raisman told us. “There’s this girl upstairs, she’s 4, her name is Pearl — she’s jumping up on the bed and doing gymnastics, and it was just a really, really beautiful moment.”
A 7-month-old baby wearing a bright yellow headband was in Raisman’s arms (below) for nearly half the event as the baby’s mom, 20-year-old Saily Baez, beamed. There are currently seven families living at the shelter — all single moms between 20 and 35 years old, each with one or two kids.
The new mattresses now belong to the mothers, said Colette Johnson, the program coordinator for the Devon Street shelter. When the women eventually move out, they’ll take the mattresses with them to permanent housing.
For her part, Raisman said she’s home and working on a new book, a memoir called “Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything,” to be released this fall.
“I always kind of joke, I feel like I’m Hannah Montana,” said Raisman, referring to the Disney show starring Miley Cyrus as a teenager who’s an average schoolgirl by day and a famous recording artist by night. “When I was little, that was my favorite show, so I know I’m not as famous as her. But I always feel like I have two different lives.”