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Jan 17, 2024 6:22:00 AM

The True Story Behind ‘The Miracle Season’ & the People Who Made It Happen

Kathy Bresnahan will never forget “The Miracle Season.” The former high school volleyball coach was coming off an incredible championship run and gearing up for another when she got news that her star setter, Caroline Found, was killed in an accident. Despite the heartbreak and grief, the team decided to rally together and give everything they had to honor their friend's memory.

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If you don’t know the story and haven’t seen the film, it is currently streaming on Great American Pure Flix for a limited time. But, we won’t spoil the ending!

We will say that when Bresnahan is asked to speak about her experience and the book she wrote, “The Miracle Season” (which inspired the movie) it is not about rallying teams to victory or winning championships, it’s about “making a difference” as a person—just like Caroline did.

“Each one of you can make a difference. Don’t say, ‘I’m not strong enough or I’m not loud enough.’ There are people there who you can really touch. Look around and find them,” Bresnahan, who is played by Helen Hunt in the film, said in an appearance earlier this year. “Caroline had the gift of letting everybody know that she cared about them, even the kids on the margins.”

Caroline was only 17 years old when she was killed in a freak moped accident in 2011 while on her way to the hospital to visit her mom who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She was the setter and leader of the championship Iowa City West Girls Volleyball team and a friend to many.

In an exclusive 2022 interview with Great American Pure Flix, her dad, Ernie Found, described a girl who “loved helping people” and “helping to make people smile.” If there were kids sitting alone at lunch, Caroline would join them, and she was active in the school’s Best Buddies Program for kids with special needs.

The way she lived her life and radiated kindness inspired the creation of the Live Like Line Foundation after she died to help provide funding to local students in need of assistance.

It was that memory that also inspired her teammates to continue on with the season. But without a setter and vocal leader, the team was going nowhere fast. That’s when Caroline’s best friend, Kelley Fliehler (played by Erin Moriarty in the movie) had to step up.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Fliehler said in a 2021 interview. “My first thought was that I couldn’t fill Caroline’s shoes, and I didn’t want to try. It felt like a lot of pressure, and I didn’t want to let Caroline down.”

Thanks to the encouragement of her teammates, Fliehler did it anyway. And though she struggled at first, she eventually found her footing and became the leader her teammates desperately needed.

“[Caroline] helped bring me out of my shell. I was this shy kid, and she brought me into her friend group. The confidence she helped instill in me, it changed the trajectory of my life,” said Fliehler, who now works as a physician’s assistant. “Every high school has its cliques. But she included everybody, and she did it flawlessly.”

Caroline’s determination to help others was also a big part of why Ernie Found (played by William Hurt) decided to attend every Ladies of Troy volleyball game that season. In fact, the first came just hours after the memorial service for his wife, Ellyn, who had passed away from cancer less than two weeks after Caroline died.

‘I kind of kept thinking what would Caroline do in this situation?” Found told Great American Pure Flix. “We were all struggling … I just felt like anything I can do to help them, that’s what I need to do. And indirectly, that helped me a great deal.”

The experience also “strengthened” the retired surgeon’s faith and helped him to realign his priorities to what matters most.

“It’s very easy for all of us to get wound up in ourselves and our day-to-day happenings… that’s not what matters in the long run,” Found said. “It’s the relationships that you make, the relationships that you work on, the love that you give and thereby receive, that’s what’s most important in the long run.”

Stream “The Miracle Season” today on Great American Pure Flix and be encouraged by this beautiful overcomer story.

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Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in Christian Post, The Daily Signal, and Intellectual Takeout. Mayer has a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Arizona State University.