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Sierra Ackerman and Nick Davis were all smiles as they stood inside the TC Roberson track dancing to every song played from the press box. As Nick was waiting to compete in his 100 meter walk, the athlete and his buddy enjoyed getting to spend time together at Special Olympics.
This year’s games marked senior Ackerman’s sixth year attending as a student buddy. While thinking about what she was most looking forward to for the day, Sierra turned and decided to ask Nick to answer for her, and he knew just what to say.
“Seeing me!” he exclaimed, and he smothered Ackerman in a hug. She happily agreed.
“I love that the kids get to express themselves outside of a classroom setting and are able to compete like regular athletes, because they are normal athletes, just like us,” she said.
Students of all ages involved in special needs programs from schools across Buncombe County, as well as PEP alumni, came together at Ensley Stadium to enjoy a day of friendly competition through track and field events.
Each spring, the olympics unite staff, buddies, and volunteers in an effort to organize and create inclusive games for the participants and other attendees. Many students volunteer to run alongside PEP students, time events, serve in concessions and cheer on the athletes.
Senior Olivia Berry, along with others involved in National Art Honors Society and AP Art, contributed her time by painting faces. She was involved with PEP as a peer helper her sophomore year and the olympics gave her a chance to reconnect with friends she hadn’t seen for some time.
“I really like the PEP Program at TC, and I love the kids. Today has been fun getting to see them all again,“ Berry said.
While the relays, races, walks and softball throws are anticipated by the athletes who strive to win medals, many also know the day truly highlights PEP students having the chance to express their individuality while spending time with loved ones, making new friends, and most importantly, having fun.
A Cane Creek 7th-grader named Addison spent the day with his athlete Logan, who is in second grade and competed in the 50-meter dash and the softball throw.
“Being out here makes him happy and makes me happy. I’m just glad to get to spend time with my buddy,” Addison said.