On a rural cattle pasture in the heart of Polk County, the Smith family has established their home at Sweet Grass Farm. Along with their three adopted sons, 90 cows roam the property. For the Smiths, ten years of cattle farming has proven to be a shared exercise of hard work and gratification.
Special Olympics Polk County athlete Jacob Smith, 9, reaps the rewards of his attentiveness to the cattle farm as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even from home. Jacob is one of the many Special Olympics North Carolina athletes who have taken part in the Fit 5 Challenge, a guide based on the three simple goals of exercising five days per week, eating five fruits and vegetables per day and drinking five bottles of water daily.
This movement took place throughout the month of April, encouraging athletes to complete a fitness and nutrition tracker, challenging participants to stay active and make healthy choices on a daily basis. Jacob, immediately capitalizing on the opportunity, began to record his progress.
His mother, Megan, champions Jacob’s efforts for tracking and striving to reach his health milestones. With three sons and a full-time job directing a local funeral home, Smith has seamlessly integrated healthy-minded living into their home.
“Regular sports can be a challenge for him,” said Smith. “Being in the Exceptional Children (EC) class, he was eligible for Special Olympics and that has kind of always been a time for him where he gets recognition for doing well.”
Having competed in soccer with a local recreational league in addition to training in equestrian with Special Olympics North Carolina, Jacob’s uneasiness around crowds has never held him back from his athletic aspirations.
Eager to be recognized for his dedication to the Fit 5 Challenge, Jacob was among the first to successfully complete and turn in his tracker. He will also probably be among the first to count herding cattle as a form of exercise.
“He has been learning to ride the tractor and help with tractor maintenance,” said Smith. “We have grass-fed cows, so they get moved to a different spot on the farm every day. He helps move the cows, put up fencing and dig holes.”
Spending most of his time outdoors on the farm, Jacob can be seen speeding up and down the driveway on his bicycle for hours each day. As fuel, he is powering his body with nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Fueling his competitive nature are his two brothers, Lee and Jacob. Coincidentally both named “Jacob,” the adopted brothers share not only a name, but a love for competition.
“Older Jacob is very encouraging, he is involved with sports at his high school,” said Smith. “The littlest one, Lee, doesn’t understand why he doesn’t get to do it.”
On competition days, the entire Smith family will be in attendance, supporting Jacob. His EC classmates from Tryon Elementary School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School®, appear with handmade signs, their cheers culminating in a victorious anthem.
Though the audible cheers have subsided in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with every check mark on his Fit 5 Challenge tracker, the gratification of a job well done is achieved.