A champion in every sense: Holmes County Special Olympics athlete William Champion pays tribute to late father


Within Holmes County, the Bonifay Recreation Center was a beacon of joy and unity as it hosted the Special Olympics Wednesday, Mayfmar 15. 

It was a time when the air was electric with the sounds of fervent cheers and spirited applause, celebrating athletes from across the Holmes County school district as they showcased their skills in a vibrant display of sportsmanship and courage.

Special Olympics athlete William Champion won a gold medal in the Holmes County games in Bonifay May 15, days after his father passed away. “I really needed this,” William said. [GARETT VALCOURT | The Advertiser] 

From the early hours, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. Students from every school in the district lined up at the starting lines of their respective sports, their faces alight with the thrill of competition. The community showed their support, filling the space with a collective roar of encouragement that lifted the spirits of all present.

Among the competitors was a young athlete, William Champion. Along with his agility and speed, that day marked a journey for William. 

The ninth grader from Bethlehem High School dashed through the 50-yard sprint with a vigor that belied the personal loss weighing on his young shoulders. 

From left: Special Olympics athletes and Bethlehem High School students William Champion and Hunter Ditto participated in the Holmes County games in Bonifay May 15. William competed days after his father passed away.  [GARETT VALCOURT | The Advertiser] 

Clad in a bright yellow shirt that fluttered like a banner of hope against the breeze, William ran as if propelled by every ounce of love and memory of his late father, who had tragically passed away just days before on May 4.

The crowd erupted as William crossed the finish line, his joy uncontained as he embraced his coaches, teachers, and family. The warmth of their hugs seemed to wrap him in a cocoon of familial love and communal pride. 

William’s victory was not just in his athletic prowess but in his indomitable spirit, which shone brightly as he was awarded a gold medal—a symbol of triumph over the adversities of fate.

“I really needed this,” William said.

“It’s been a rough week and we just needed to see Will smile,” his mother said.

That smile, wide and heartfelt, was indeed a balm to their collective grief, illuminating the day with its brightness.

As he displayed his medal, his pride was evident. 

“Last week I lost my dad in a car accident but to hear I’m going to be in a newspaper with my medals, I know it would make my dad proud,” William said. 

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