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For Jamar Bell and his father Dion Bell, Thursday was a day to remember.
Jamar, a fifth-grader at Jones Elementary School, was chosen to carry the torch onto the field to start the 2018 Spring Games, a Special Olympics event held at Hunt High School.
“I am proud of him but also all of the other Special Olympics athletes out here,” said Bell. “We just appreciate him being nominated and we appreciate his teacher helping out with him. This is a great day.”
Jamar competed in the 50-meter race and earned a blue ribbon.
“He has come a long way since we had him in kindergarten,” said Renae Davis of Jones Elementary School. “He’s very social and he loves to dance.”
Kelsey Newsome, special populations and senior specialist for Wilson Parks and Recreation and the local coordinator for Wilson County Special Olympics, said everyone was excited to have Jamar as the torchbearer.
“His nomination from his teacher really touched a lot of us,” Newsome said.
The Spring Games, a track and field-style event, brought in more than 180 competitive athletes for track and field events plus more than 100 young athletes, 7 and under, for track-style events geared more toward their age group.
“It’s an awesome event,” said Dell Edmonds, parks superintendent for the city of Wilson, who was nearby to watch Jamar carry in the torch. “It’s just awesome to see the kids having a good day.”
Jacinthia Williams, a substitute in an exceptional children’s class at Winstead Elementary School, agreed.
“I know a lot of the kids out here from the different schools,” Williams said. “I think it’s wonderful, so they can experience different things and just have fun doing it.”
According to Newsome, planning for the event includes lots of prep time.
“I visit each school individually and get qualifying scores so when the athletes are here and participating, they are participating against folks that have the same ability level as them,” Newsome said.
Newsome pairs with the exception children teachers and the physical education teachers at the different schools to gear their classes to what’s going on.
“The teachers are awesome,” Newsome said. “Our EC teachers are the best anywhere around.”
Newsome said a dedicated group of volunteers stages the event.
“We really enjoy our community partners and we couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” Newsome said.
Corey Aikens, an information technology client delivery manager for BB&T, was among the legion of volunteers out for the event Thursday.
“One of our main foundations and values is to give back to the community we live in and make it a better place,” Aikens said. “With that being said, out Lighthouse Projects is one of those things that we do here at BB&T. What we do is we get out into the communities and try to support many of the activities that we have and that’s our way of giving back to the community.”
For years BB&T and other businesses have supported these events for special-needs kids.
“They deserve the same attention that other athletes get, so when you have an event like this where you can support them and you can motivate them to do the best that they can based on their limitations, it’s a great thing,” Aikens said.
“It gives them a chance to get out of the classroom and be social with other children,” said Davis.
Charlotte Hicks, a Wilson County Schools nurse, worked to help give out the awards and pass out ribbons.
“We want to support all of our students and it is a great time for these students to be recognized for their abilities,” Hicks said.
This is her 14th year helping at the event.
“It is very encouraging to see their smiles and to be cheered on by other people here at the Special Olympics,” Hicks said.