A 30-year tradition at Charlotte Country Day School has become a passion for David Ball, the school’s dean of students.
Next week will be the 30th anniversary for the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics Spring Games on Country Day’s campus, and it’s the 30th year Ball will be in charge. It will also be his last, as he’ll be retiring at the end of the school year.
Ball came to the school 32 years ago after being named Country Day’s first dean of students and quickly began work on service opportunities for upper school students. What started out as a lucky phone call asking for help led to a partnership much greater than he could ever imagine.
“It really got started at (the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) when we were asked to volunteer out there by Special Olympics,” Ball said. “I took the junior class there as a service project and the students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity.”
The following year, Special Olympics organizers contacted Ball in hopes that Country Day would agree to host the Spring Games on their own campus.
“I thought it was only going to be for one year and we could manage that since it was a fabulous opportunity,” Ball said. But after a successful event, and strong kindness shown from Country Day upper school students to the Special Olympics athletes, the organization asked Ball and the school to take on the initiative again.
“The next year they called again, and then again the next year. We were both happy with the experience that it just became kind of a tradition over night. Special Olympics liked the location, they like the facilities, and if it wasn’t too much of a hardship, they would like to be here.”
It was exactly what Ball was looking for, though totally unexpected, he said. Working to find ways to engage his students in the community at-large, Ball said working with an organization like Special Olympics and the community they serve would have never crossed his mind if they hadn’t contacted him first. But he’s proud of the partnership that last year served about 1,000 kid, teen and adult athletes at the school for track and field events, softball, other motor activities and more.
Every year, Country Day students in ninth through 12th grade pair up with athletes throughout their time participating in the games. The students become encouragers, motivators and even friends, Ball said.
“It’s one of the things that I am most proud of because I felt when I came to Country Day that it was important to find a way to expose our kids to the community at large, to get them out of their comfort zones, to get them out of their boundaries,” Ball said. “The phone call from Special Olympics was a pure gift – it was just what I had in mind for the student body and in truth, the faculty, too.”
For Ball, the 30th anniversary is just an end to another chapter at Charlotte Country Day for him, as the school still plans on continuing the tradition in the future. Letting the tradition go is a little bittersweet, Ball said – so is leaving Country Day School and his position as a senior grade level coordinator. He said more than anything leaving behind students will be the hardest part about his retirement.
“It’s very bittersweet. I realize that there was not going to be a cut-off point, that there was always going to be a younger sister or a younger brother I wanted to get to know or a family that I was close to, but there was never going to be a clear line for me to leave,” he said.
This year’s Spring Games event will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23 and 24, at the Charlotte Country Day School Cannon Campus, 1440 Carmel Road. Ball said in celebration of 30 years, the school has invited alumni to participate in this year’s event, as well, making it a great year to say goodbye, he added.