Williamson County Schools BE NICE message continued its jaunt around the globe this summer. It’s been in places like Svalbard, Norway, the Great Wall of China and even the International Space Station, just to name a few. And when approximately 6500 athletes, ranging in ages from nine to 72 years old, descended upon Los Angeles for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, BE NICE was there too, thanks to WCS Curriculum Director Jaci Stewart.
“I was fortunate as my brother served on the board of directors for the games,” said Stewart. “This enabled me to participate in a variety of activities and go behind the scenes of how these games came about.”
Stewart was in Los Angeles July 23 through July 27. There she attended a reception at the home of Maria Shriver where Olympic Board members and Athlete Ambassadors were honored for their hard work in supporting and bringing the games to LA.
“It felt like the BE NICE concept fit into the theme of the World Games,” said Stewart. “Many times people with disabilities are misunderstood and we need to remind each other that people with disabilities want to be accepted for who they are and what they can do.”
The athletes at the World Games hit the ground running with BE NICE.
“The athletes were anxious to let others know about what BE NICE meant,” said Stewart. “Several former sports representatives and Olympic medalists thought the BE NICE campaign is greatly needed and they did not hesitate to have their pictures made with the BE NICE sign. Dikembe Mutombo, former NBA player, even had me take his picture with his camera so he could share with his children and post it on his website.”
Through all of the new experiences, it was meeting 19-year-old Tennessee athlete Nicole Gonzalez that was one of Stewart’s greatest moments.
“After one of the track heats, I glanced at the scoring times and saw Nicole’s name,” said Stewart. At that time, the USA track and field team walked into the stands and about 20 minutes later, Nicole joined them. I introduced myself and she seemed elated that someone from Tennessee was there to watch her participate.”
Stewart says she has been privileged to be a part of many different events and special occasions, but attending the World Games was an honor.
“These athletes have overcome great obstacles in their lifetime and this was a way to show the world how they don’t see themselves as having a disability, but to show they are capable of so much more and want to be treated as equal,” said Stewart. “Their smiles glowed; their hugs were genuine; and their enthusiasm was never ending. These athletes, their coaches and their families will forever hold a special place in my heart – the experience was nothing less than awesome.”