Hope and happiness can spread quicker than COVID-19. Warren County got a first-hand lesson Wednesday night.
Warren County High School joined in on the "Be the Light" movement sweeping the country, where sports teams are lighting up their fields at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) to honor the 2020 senior class.
Lights came on at the baseball, softball and soccer fields at WCHS on Wednesday, one night after football coach Matt Turner lit up Nunley Stadium Tuesday. Warren County doubled down on Wednesday, encouraging teachers, students and parents to circle through the campus to see lights.
Athletic director Todd Willmore didn’t know what to expect when he helped hatch the plan Wednesday morning. He was as surprised as anybody when he saw the gathering of vehicles.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped for that kind of crowd,” said Willmore. “When I first started thinking about it, I thought about the end of ‘Field of Dreams’ and all the headlights coming from the distance. I know that’s make-believe, but that was the thought and it turned out well.
“Everybody seemed to be enjoying it. I saw a lot of smiles on people’s faces and had a lot of people say thanks for having it. We had a lot of positive feedback.”
By 8:20 p.m., cars were lined up in each direction as far as the eye could see. Overall, hundreds of cars made the trip through the campus. Teachers had gathered before with signs of support and a hope to catch of glimpse of their kids.
“It was simply amazing to see many of our students - so many of ‘my kids’ faces. They were smiling, we were smiling,” said WCHS teacher and newly named volleyball coach Erin Blalock. “We may have even cried a little, but only because we care so much for each other.”
Softball coach Gooby Martin gathered with his staff at the softball field entrance, hoping to get a glimpse of the players who were supposed to be defending a region championship at this time. Martin and his staff added an extra touch, displaying the jerseys of the team’s three seniors – MaKenna Mason, Savannah Cox and Calyn Damon.
“I wanted a way to honor those three seniors under these circumstances. This class means a lot to this program – they were trying to be the first class to make it to four straight region tournaments,” said Martin. “It felt great to see the players that showed up. I miss those girls. When you go from seeing them 5-6 days a week to zero – it’s been hard on me. It was great to see them and their smiles.”
Other coaches littered the path put forth by the administration, as did teachers. It was a perfect time for everybody to come together for the class of 2020.
The seniors felt the love.
“I was at a loss for words when I saw the amount of traffic waiting to get into the parking lot. I was teary-eyed throughout the entire drive, but when I saw Mr. George, Mrs. Rogers and some of the teachers waiting at the end of the parade, I couldn’t help but lose it. Our senior class really does have some of the best support that we could ask for,” said WCHS senior cheerleader Arden Cummins.
Preventative measures were taken throughout the event, with SRO officers stationed at the front of the line telling participants to stay in their vehicle, keep moving and reminding them to head home after the trip through the school lot.
In the age of social distancing, all that could be shared were smiles through windows. Those smiles were shining as bright as the field lights illuminating the path.