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Posted: May 1, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Special men

This week we had the pleasure of awarding our annual Hometown Hero award with our partner General Mills.
The two finalists for this year’s award both had disabilities, yet through their perseverance, determination and love, they overcame any limitation and used their shining personalities to touch the lives of people in a way that gives all of us an extra dose of encouragement.

Morgan Steward, a 5 year-old Newton County boy, has a rare, incurable disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy that requires him to frequently use a wheelchair to get around. Despite the disease, Morgan wanted nothing more than to become a police officer.

Morgan’s story of courage spread across Metro Atlanta and the nation and people near and far came to his aid. The Covington Police Department made Morgan an honorary police officer, while companies across the area and nation helped the family in different ways, including Pennsylvania-based Quantum Rehab which created a special wheelchair with police lights and sirens.

We saw firsthand the engaging smile that young Morgan shares so easily. Some of us were complaining just the other day about the aches and pains of life; after meeting Morgan, those aches and pains just weren’t so bad after all.

Morgan’s father gave a speech about the love that Morgan shares with everyone he meets; there was not a dry eye in the room.

And Morgan was our runner up.

Jim Dial was born with Down syndrome, but he was another amazing example of a person who made the most of life.

In fact, as his friend Judge Sammy Ozburn said, it’s doubtful Jim himself ever even thought he had a handicap.

For years, Jim was a fixture at the county judicial center, where his engaging smile captivated a legion of dedicated admirers, who were quick to throw him a celebration or take him to Athens to visit his beloved University of Georgia
Jim died last year, and his mother, Shirley Dial, accepted the Hometown Hero award on his behalf. After meeting here, it’s easy to understand how Jim became the outstanding gentleman he was.

The Hometown Hero’s breakfast by design is a low-key affair that honors people in our community that go above and beyond in their everyday live to support their family, neighbors and community, without expecting anything in return.

This year’s winners put a unique twist of that principle. Their families and friends provided them with support on a daily basis, but these two men provided kindness, love and hope. We can’t think of any better gifts.

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