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Wataugans named 2017 Special Olympics NC Family of the Year

The Blowing Rocket - 1/25/2018

BOONE - A family who's been involved with Watauga Special Olympics for approximately 19 years was presented the 2017 Family of the Year award by the Special Olympics of North Carolina.

Watauga Special Olympics Coordinator Keron Poteat said the Bell family - Nancy, Ty and Courtney - are very welcoming, funny and humble.

"I just start smiling when I think about them," Poteat said. "Your cheeks will hurt if you're around them for very long. They have this crazy, great energy."

Nancy Bell has served as a coach for Special Olympics bowling and aquatics for 15 years. Nancy Bell has also helped to coach track and field and coach bocce. Poteat said Ty Bell has helped supply funds for the bowling team on multiple occasions and has served as a chaperone at events.

Nancy Bell said she became involved with Special Olympics in the 1980s as part of a class at the University of Delaware.

Later she changed her major and became less involved with the program. However, Nancy said she and her husband, Ty, became involved with the program once again when they had their daughter, Courtney, who was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome.

Bell said she and her husband - along with their then 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, J.T. - moved to Boone in 1994. When her daughter, now 27, was 8 years old, Bell said Courtney became a Special Olympics athlete.

During the years, Bell said her daughter has competed in sports such as bowling, swimming, bocce, cheerleading and basketball. While at a swimming practice early in her daughter's athletic career, Bell said a couple parents were asked to help with the sport. It was here that Bell started helping to coach the swim team and then later the bowling team.

"It's such a great group of people to be around," Bell said. "You go to volunteer and you think it's to help them out, but really you get it back so much more."

Poteat mentioned that the Bells help pay for the bowling athletes to practice at High Country Lanes in Boone. Bell said they had cut a deal with the bowling alley to pay $5 for each athlete to have shoes and two games per practice.

Poteat said she nominated the Bells for the award in August or September. She said the state office evaluates all of the submissions and chooses one family from the state of North Carolina who's deserving of the title.

"The Bell family genuinely cares and provides for our local athletes," Poteat said in her submission to the state. "By providing transportation to athletes who may not have rides, or coaching a team of bowlers or swimmers, or being that extra chaperone for travel in and around the state, the Bell family is always there. They are quick to say, 'what do you need,' and, then they make it happen."

The Special Olympics North Carolina and Poteat then strategized a way to surprise the Bell family with the award. Poteat said she invited the Bell family out to dinner at Bella's Italian Restaurant in November to deliver the news.

Bell said she had no idea they had been nominated and thought they were just celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. A representative from the state office came to the event as well as a couple of Bell's co-coaches and athletes.

"That was really sweet," Bell said. "I had no idea. We were very humbled."

Ty Bell has a vein practice in Alaska and spends time there at last two weeks a month. Nancy Bell said since her daughter moved into a group home this past fall, she is either in Boone or Alaska. However, she said she will continue to stay involved with Special Olympics.

"I can't imagine when I wouldn't be helping with it in some fashion," Bell said. "It's just a part of me."


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