When the official yelled ‘go,' Ariel Quinto-Chavez grinned ear to ear and promptly began skipping and dancing her way down the track at Dawson County High School.
A vision of pure joy, Quinto-Chavez beamed as she began the race and when volunteers and teachers began signing and yelling for her to run, she did. She ran and laughed her way to the finish line.
She hugged her supporters and had her picture taken after she was awarded her ribbon for the race.
It may have been an overcast day, but for the student athletes, parents, volunteers and coordinators, last week's Dawson County Spring Games were only bright and sunny.
"The parents, students and community seem to really enjoy the event," said Chess Hamby who is in his second year of organizing the effort. "For these kids to be able to come out in front of this big stadium with people and the stands and compete is really special."
"The best part is seeing the kids' faces when they receive a medal or ribbon," said Hershel Bennett, director of exceptional children for Dawson County Schools.
Each year, through a coordinated effort between Lumpkin County Schools and Dawson County Schools, the spring games are held to celebrate the exceptional children from both counties.
"We have partnered with Lumpkin County for the last four years alternating sites between Dawson and Lumpkin," said Bennett.
Hamby likened the event to a field day for exceptional children.
"They won medals and ribbons and had a great support system cheering them on," Hamby said. "I'm very thankful for the great turn out and excellent weather."
On March 30, student volunteers, friends and family members gathered in the DCHS football stadium for opening ceremonies and the athlete parade.
This year saw just over 100 students compete from the two counties, according to Hamby.
Visibly excited, many waved and cheered as they made their way around the track.
After the parade, volunteers were partnered with the student-athletes and assisted as they made their way from one scheduled event to the next.
Volunteers included students from the JROTC program, the Jobs for Georgia Graduates club, students from the early childhood development classes and DCHS football players.
Nine-year-old Kyra Colvin made her way around the field to participate with volunteer and DCHS senior Natalie Glass. The two discussed her plans to participate in an upcoming beauty pageant.
"I sure hope the volunteers took something away from this," Hamby said. "These kids are some of the most courageous individuals I have ever met. They inspire me daily and I hope they have inspired everyone involved as well."
Students were able to participate in a number of events ranging from bowling and volleyball to races, basketball shooting and throwing events.
"This is a huge day for our athletes," Bennett said. "They look forward to being on the field and track competing with their friends."
Participants received ribbons at individual events and then moved to the middle of the field where Coach Jed Lacey handed out medals.
The morning concluded with a pizza lunch.
"It is important that our exceptional children have the opportunity to compete and interact within the school," Hamby said. "I feel it brings our student body as a whole closer together.
"I would like to thank Lumpkin for attending and their continued partnership to put this event on."