MAYFLOWER, Ark – People in Mayflower celebrated the homecoming of one of their own Monday.
Julia Gaffney returned home to Mayflower after competing and winning two bronze medals in swimming in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Monday members of the community came together to put on a special parade for the Paralympian.
“The community has been waiting for this day,” said Mayflower Police Patrol Sgt. Tim Lassiter.
Cars drove by Julia’s family home playing music, throwing flowers, and waving USA flags for the athlete.
The 21-year-old won bronze in the 100M backstroke and 400M freestyle. She says it was a dream finally come true.
“I always loved the water,” said Gaffney.
Gaffney said she swam for fun when she was a kid, but it wasn’t until about 6 years ago when she jumped from a smaller pond to one with faster fish, training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Julia didn’t make the team in 2016 but says that was the motivation she needed to push forward.
“I remember when I went home, Coach Tony was like you’re going to become a Paralympian in Tokyo 2020 and here I am,” said Gaffney.
She says making it to Toyko took a lot of determination and a lot of time spent underwater but in the end it was worth it. She’s hoping she can inspire others to follow their dreams.
“Whatever dream you have is to really hold fast to it and keep believing in yourself because you can do it,” said Gaffney.
Even though Mayflower is a small town, people in the community showed up in a big way.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can accomplish anything,” said Lassiter.
Monday Julia was celebrating and resting but before long she says she’ll be back in the water, full speed ahead.
Gaffney says her next goal is to make it to Paris 2024.