Carroll County High School shop class students got a local Special Olympics athlete on the fast track with his Halloween costume.
Alva “Alvie” Ayers, who at 68 is the oldest participant on the County Special Olympics team, wanted to be a race car driver. According to family members Janet and Mike Jones, Ayers’ long time interest in the sport reflects meeting with his idol, NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“We knew what we wanted but we had no idea how to do it,” said Special Olympics spokesperson Vickey Ritchie. She explained she sought the assistance of Teaching Assistant Linda Burcham on who could help with a project for Ayers, who is in a wheelchair.
Burcham sought the aid of Building Trades Instructor Justin Quesenberry’s class. According to Quesenberry, the students picked up the ball and ran with it.
“They sent us a picture of a design they had found on the Internet,” Quesenberry said. “The other thing we had to go on was they told us he was a Jeff Gordon fan. It took shape as we went along. We even had one student bring in a lawnmower steering wheel. The students took great pride in what they were making.”
While some of the teamwork, problem solving and fabricating were a natural for the students, other areas were new territory for the 35 pupils who worked on the costume, which fits neatly over top of Ayers’ wheelchair. Many of the components, such as the painting and art elements, fell into place as students stepped up to use their unique talents.
Students got a chance to see Ayers put their creation through its paces at CCHS on Oct. 14. Ritchie said he even participated in costume during recent basketball practices. She said the creation also made a splash at the “Survival@BooRidge” event. She told the students assembled to meet Ayers that he was known as the Special Olympics participant with the biggest smile.
“This means an awful lot to Alvie,” Ritchie said. “It’s not every day you make something for someone you’ve never met.” She told them Ayers served as a sixth man for the basketball team, throwing the ball in bounds from the sidelines.
Senior Grace Marsh said getting to see the impact of something they made on its recipient was an awesome experience for her. Classmate Kasey Perrin frankly shared that while he wasn’t a Gordon fan, he did enjoy the project and trying his hand at painting as well as seeing Ayers’ smile.
Junior Todd Sawyers said his favorite part of the project was the spray painting. He said that normally CCHS Art classes are tapped for some of the design elements, but his fellow students got caught up in creating the race car-shaped costume.
“It was a really worthwhile project,” Sawyers said. “It was awesome to do something of service for someone in the community.”
The three said the building trades class is often called on for various school improvement projects. Students present to talk with Ayers and his family included Tristen Ousley, Justin Poe, Tristan Gibson, Todd Sawyers, Kasey Perrin, Grace Marsh, Trenton McMillian and Dakota Miller.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.