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Missy Franklin visits sick children, continues to spread cheer regardless of season

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At this point, Missy Franklin is virtually universally revered as an American treasure, an international athletic superstar who happens to be more down to earth than nearly any girl next door. Throughout her rapid rise to fame, Franklin has refused to ignore her roots, first returning to Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit School and returning to classes as if nothing had happened, then insisting upon swimming for the Regis Jesuit swim team just for the collegiality of doing so.

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Now Franklin is finding a practical way to merge her overnight celebrity and down home ideals, volunteering at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver to cheer up the struggle of sick Colorado children.

As reported by the Denver Post and 9News.com, among other Rocky Mountain sources, Franklin spent Thursday at the hospital making rounds, visiting every sick child she could while trying to lift their spirits. For some youngsters, Franklin offered up one of her Olympic medals to try on. For others, she cracked a joke.

[Related: Rival swimmer predicts Michael Phelps will return for Rio Olympics]

Yet the best indication of just how modest Franklin truly is came when one young patient told the swimmer that they had been told a celebrity would be visiting. The patient was thrilled Franklin was that celebrity, while the swimmer had her doubts.

"What if they are expecting Brad Pitt or Taylor Swift, and I come walking in?" Franklin told 9News.com.

The message Franklin delivered was clear: Keep fighting, no matter what. She delivered it from room-to-room, patient-to-patient, trying to encourage hope. Eventually her day culminated in a hospital party, where the patients got to dance and celebrate with Franklin and her Regis Jesuit teammates.

It was a brief respite from a difficult journey for so many patients. Throughout it all, Franklin showed a knack for helping ease the burden on those who were younger and less fortunate than herself. As always, she proved a natural. Fewer things could be more fitting.

"These patients have such an impact on me," Franklin told 9News.com. "They are all amazing."

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