BETHANY — Kimberly Morris' iPhone zoomed in on her son, recording 9-year-old Zakery as he came down the stretch of the TCC 500.
Zakery was in his wheelchair, hitting a switch that caused a toy duck to waddle along atop a table. When the duck reached the finish line, the time would be recorded, because that's what they do in the Olympics.
Even The Children's Center Olympics.
Step aside, London. You're not only the Olympiad that can get excited over games that may or not may not have rules we can easily understand. Not the only Olympiad where results are questioned.
“He would have won first place,” Zakery's mom said with a smile, “but the chicken gave up on him.” I think it was a duck, but who's really counting?
What counted Thursday at The Children's Center was what is supposed to count in London.
The Olympic creed proclaims: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee and author of the Olympic creed, would have been proud to be in Bethany this week, where this magical place staged its own Olympics.
The Children's Center is a private, pediatric hospital serving kids with complex medical and physical disabilities. And this week, the home of bowling, the PowerLift, tug-of-war, catapult and the smile-a-thon, among other notable events that trump synchronized swimming.
Twenty-one-month-old Taliya, in a wheelchair and on a portable ventilator, took 32 seconds to pick up a block. But on her next try in the PowerLift, she took just three seconds.
Then Taliya recorded a seven in the smile-a-thon. She smiled seven times in a minute. And you wished you could see Usain Bolt run the 100-meter dash.
“To me, it means hope and opportunity,” Taliya's father, Troy McDaniel said of The Children's Center. “Opportunity for her to get the advanced treatment she needs and hurry back home.”
A place you figure will drain your spirit instead sends it soaring.
“Everyone here has such a passion for our kids,” said Kimberly Morris, whose son has been in The Children's Center almost eight years. “They treat them like their own. You can't tell they're disabled by the interaction of the caregivers and the kids. They do amazing.”
The Children's Center has kids who are long-termers and short-termers. Jonathan, 14, gets to go home this week and start high school. He was here for another surgery; Jonathan explained that his bones are brittle and break easily.
But Jonathan was here long enough to sing the national anthem at the opening ceremonies Monday. “I like to sing,” he said. “Not very good at it.”
Friday will come the medal ceremonies. Some of the kids won't know they were competing. But think back to the Creed. They'll know they were taking part. They'll know they weren't in this struggle alone.
“Hard to leave here without being sold on the place,” said Travis Doussette, communications coordinator for The Children's Center, and he was spot on.
Sheila Egge's 17-year-old daughter, Chelsea, has been in The Children's Center three years. They came from California, and Sheila Egge couldn't believe what they found.
“There's no comparison absolutely anywhere,” she said. “The staff, the medical care, the whole place, it's gorgeous.
“I don't know how to describe it. It's amazing. Just amazing.”
Chelsea turns 18 in September and in October will be joining her family in Wewoka.
“She's had many good days here,” Sheila Egge said.
Count Thursday among them.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.