Since 1789, 45 elected individuals have assumed the role of president of the United States of America. There are few who know the intricate details of their lives, their policies and their legacies as well as Special Olympics Iredell County athlete Reece Williams. To be president is no simple task. One must accept the responsibilities of the job with a level of immeasurable endurance, exceeding the boundaries of personal comfort. This is the mindset that led Reece to the finish line of the Special Olympics Fit 5 Challenge.
Taking place throughout the month of April, the Fit 5 Challenge encouraged athletes to prioritize wellness with a guide based on the goals of exercising regularly, eating healthier and drinking water. Athletes, like Reece, completed a fitness tracker to account for progress made.
With training and competition on pause for nearly the 40,000 Special Olympics athletes across North Carolina due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reece did not let the circumstances inhibit his competitive nature. At 23 years old, Reece has participated in alpine skiing, basketball, bocce, bowling, sailing and swimming.
“When all of this started, Reece was so active and involved in Special Olympics,” said his mother, Bobbi Williams. “It’s what he absolutely loves doing. When I told Reece about the Fit 5 Challenge, his thoughts were, ‘I’m going to stay fit, so that when we start back up, I’ll be ready, I’ll be in shape.’”
On a typical day, Reece could be found working at Village Inn Pizza in Statesville, completing homework for his courses at Mitchell Community College, taking weekly yoga classes or competing against his two younger brothers. Having to adapt to a new routine, Reece has been resourceful in maintaining his health.
“He is making an effort to get outside and play basketball with his brothers,” said Bobbi. “He jumps on the trampoline and walks to keep his exercise level up, he has done a variety of things. Every day, he would say, ‘Have you put this down on my tracker?’ He would finish exercising and say, ‘Don’t forget to put this on my tracker.’”
In the realm of healthy eating, as much as he loves a supreme pizza, he is cautious about what he uses to fuel his body.
“I mainly eat salads and fruits,” said Reece. “I don’t like dark greens at all, but I like green beans.”
Competitive by nature, Reece has leveraged the Fit 5 Challenge as a guiding principle in leading a healthier life, strong-willed to exceed the weekly set goals.
Learning many lessons in leadership from the nation’s many presidents, Reece concedes that his greatest mentor is his late cousin, Special Olympics North Carolina legend Robb Williams. The SONC Robb Williams Tennis Sportsmanship Award was named in Robb’s memory and continues to celebrate other tennis athletes who value and embody true sportsmanship.
“He had 65 gold medals,” said Reece. “He went to the first Special Olympics USA Summer Games in Iowa, he went to China for the World Games and I saw him compete in powerlifting. He was a strong man.”
Though physical strength is an admirable trait in any competitor, Reece’s definition of strength extends to the virtues of ambition and determination as well, traits he studies in the 45 individuals who have sat in the Oval Office. Able to recite their names in chronological order of terms, their public agendas and a wealth of fun facts, Reece is a self-made expert.
“When he was in middle school, his teacher kept a deck of cards with the presidents on them at her desk,” said Bobbi. “He got to the point where he could answer every question about them, even if you tried to trick him. Sometimes he will come out of his room and say, ‘Mom, if I was president, here is what I would do…,’” said Bobbi.
A lover of history, Reece finds mentorship in historical figures of the past as well, their lives becoming living, breathing testimonies for inspiring change.
“I like George Washington because he founded our country,” said Reece. “And I like Abraham Lincoln because of what he did with abolishing slavery.”
One day, Reece aspires to compete in the Special Olympics World Games. One day he hopes to work in a museum, sharing his knowledge of history with others. For today, Reece sees his goals on the horizon and is carefully tracking his steps, sometimes literally, to achieving them.