Medals and smiles were plentiful at the 2015 Spring Days event on Thursday as athletes participated in a variety of sporting events.
Roughly 106 exceptional children from Dawson County schools and their buddies teamed up to compete against almost 100 rivals from Lumpkin County schools indoors due to poor weather conditions.
"We were every disappointed in the weather, said Hershel Bennett, director of special education for Dawson County school. We've had two rain delays and it's rained all week.
Changing the event from outdoors to indoors was handled by Chess Hamby, director of adaptive physical education.
"Chess Hamby did an outstanding job organizing it once, and then reorganizing it for an indoor event," Bennett said. "This event wouldn't be possible without the work of Chess Hamby. He did it 3 times. He's an exceptional guy."
Despite the change, everyone remained optimistic.
"I'm looking forward to today," Hamby said. We're making the best of it and hopefully we can see a bunch of smiling faces today."
Bennett opened the event by sharing words of gratitude to recognize the events supporters.
"We want to thank Rock Creek Park for volunteering the facility. They were very nice to let us use it," Bennett said. "We'd also like to thank Etowah Water and Sewer Authority for being a long time sponsor for Special Olympics and providing water and Dawsonville Civitan Club for sponsoring lunch today."
Etowah Water and Sewer has supported the event previously.
"It's our second year providing water to the event, and we are extremelyproud to be here," Etowah Water and Sewer General Manager Brooke Anderson said. "It's fun watching the kids. It's a tremendous organization and tremendous effort to put on. We are really just honored to be a part of it."
Led in the pledge of allegiance by DCHS JROTC member Samuel Faile, 17, the athletes and buddies lined up for the traditional parade. The competition began with a modified version of a track and field event including various running, soccer ball kick, throwing and jumping.
Education majors from the University of North Georgia were on hand to supervise the various activities. Chris Dearwent, medical trainer for DCHS was available for medical assistance, if needed.
Faile attributed his comfort in front of the large crowd to his JROTC experiences.
"I'm used to this kind of crowd and environment," he said. "I'm in ROTC program. We do flag detail. I'm used to that. For me to do this felt wonderful."
Dawson County Board of Commissioner member Jimmy Hamby attended and shared his thoughts about what the day would be like.
"I'm here to support the children, and it's a good thing," Hamby said.
Athlete Jackson Smith, 6, stated his preference for physical activity instead of academics.
"I'm having fun," the Riverview elementary school kindergartener said. "It's better than being in a classroom."
Smith shared some opinions about his teacher, Brianna Burruss.
"She's nice," Smith said. "She's pretty. She's my favorite."
When asked if he thought Burruss' salary was sufficient, Smith didn't hesitate to say "no" much to the delight of Burruss.
Ivy Grizzle, Smith's buddy, giggled too.
Grizzle, a DCHS senior, explained that she volunteered to be a buddy because it would be enjoyable.
"I thought it would be a really great activity to get to know people outside of school," she said. "I'd get to hang out with awesome kids."
Grizzle plans to attend Georgia College & State University in the fall where she plans to major in biology.
Another DCHS Tiger in attendance was Trent Rajczak.
Rajczak participated in the soccer kick and tennis ball throw, explained his dad, Ed Rajczak. Soccer skills run in the family sister Rachel played for Riverview middle school which had a perfect 2014-15 season.