Athletes in attendance at the 30th Annual Special Olympics Track and Field competition on May 13 were treated to a pleasant surprise at Jay Stadium in the form of a hand-crafted steel dragon standing seven feet tall, with a wingspan of nine feet.
Coined “The Wings of Hope,” the statue was created and donated courtesy of Scott, Tracy and William Fillmore of Fillmore Creations of Merrill. According to Scott, the roots of the project began over a year ago when local Special Olympics volunteer Brad Becker stopped in to his shop on West Main Street.
“Brad came to us and wanted to do something special for Special Olympics,” Scott explains. “He had an idea for a steel or metal dragon head to light the torch at the Olympics. It just so happened I had an idea for a dragon head I had already been working out, so I ran that idea past Brad and he said go for it.
“At the time I was pretty busy here at the shop so I told my dad William about it. He went to work right away designing the dragon’s skeleton this past March. He delivered it to the shop in April and we finished about a week before the Special Olympics competition. On the day of the event, I presented the statue to the Special Olympics organization.”
Scott’s son Jeffery also had a hand in the creation of “Wings of Hope” as he selected the words to be stenciled on the statue’s wings. As Scott’s wife Tracy adds, the trio planned to donate the statue from the very beginning, but decided to not tell Becker.
“We wanted to present it as a gift for the kids all along, but we let Brad think we were going to sell it to the organization,” she adds with a grin. “So he set about raising money for it. When he told us he had raised the funds, we told him to donate the funds to the kids of Special Olympics.”
“This was something we were excited about from the start,” Scott said. “But it really hit home for us on the day of the Special Olympics when after we had unveiled the statue and presented it to the organization, a young athlete and his father were walking by. As they passed by, the young man got a big smile on his face, pointed at the statute and said ‘Dad look! It’s our Wings of Hope!’
“That really meant a lot to hear that,” Scott adds with a smile. “To hear him refer to it as ‘our’ was great. That’s what we were hoping for – for the athletes to accept our gift and enjoy it.“
When asked of a cash value of the statue if it were to be sold, Scott just smiled and shook his head.
“It was a gift from the heart to a great organization and hard working athletes. You can’t put a cash value on that.”
The Filmores now plan to volunteer at future Special Olympics events and competitions as well as participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics in June.