Dakota Gilmore, a 13-year-old Eastside Elementary student, was recently presented a plaque by Tennessee Constable Jason Dodson and school system SRO Bobby Pennington for his efforts in protecting a 4-year-old down syndrome child who had wandered away from a party in the neighborhood.
According to Dodson, Dakota was riding his bike when he heard a car horn and turned to see a small child in the middle of the road. Dakota then dropped his bike and ran back to pull the child away from the road and out of the path of traffic. A neighbor then called Dodson as Dakota held onto the boy until Dodson arrived. County deputy Ben Cannon was also called to the incident.
Dakota says he knew he had to do something, since the little boy couldn’t communicate where he had come from.
“It was really shocking because the kid didn’t know where he was,” said Dakota, “So I just went and got him.”
Dodson said he was impressed with Dakota’s reaction and quick thinking.
“I think it’s great,” Dodson said. “I mean, usually kids his age are scared and don’t know what to do in this situation. When I got there he had him by the shirt sleeve and he wasn’t going to let him go.”
The parents of the boy are from out of town and were attending a party in the neighborhood when the child apparently slipped away. The parents were eventually identified and the child was returned to their care.
“We need more kids like Dakota in the neighborhood,” Dodson said. “Actually he had a brand new bicycle and he just dropped it and ran to keep the kid from getting run over. Another 15 minutes and there’s no telling where that little boy would have ended up. It was getting dark by that time. A lot of kids would have just turned and gone the other way, but he took good control of the situation until I got there.”
As a result of his actions, Dodson said he and Cannon felt the young man should get some recognition, and decided to surprise him by presenting the plaque at the school last Friday during an assembly at the end of the day.
Dakota’s mom, Becky Stewart, said she wasn’t really surprised to hear what Dakota had done.
“I knew it was in Dakota that if anybody was ever in need of help, that’s the child to help them,” Stewart said. “He lost his grandpa, my dad, exactly three years ago today, so this has been a special day. For him to receive this in front of the whole school, it’s breathtaking. I’m very, very proud of him.”