Bus drivers are often the first and last faces children see in the school system each day. They offer a warm smile, a friendly "hello" and lots of encouragement daily - and on Wednesday, Wilson County School bus drivers went beyond the call of duty by hosting a Valentine's Dance for the children they love and serve.
Held at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, the Valentine's Dance welcomed 350 special needs students, as well as 100 adults and student peers from Wilson County Schools.
Longtime bus driver Mary Ann Wheeler said the event has been held annually for more than 20 years.
"I worked in the classroom for 17 years and those kids love to dance. We asked the Bus Drivers Association if we could do a dance party," she said of the event's origin. "The bus drivers used to pay for it all ourselves. Now it has grown so much we take donations from businesses and other individuals, too."
Wheeler clarified that funds are not taken from the Wilson County School budget - and all expenses are covered by the bus drivers and other donations.
The party was held from 9 a.m. until noon. Kids enjoyed a lunch of hotdogs, chips and Little Debbie cakes - followed by dancing.
"This is something we look forward to year-round, and the kids do, too," added Riding Coordinator Teresa Pomeroy. "We have a lot of fun."
They start asking, 'Is it time for the dance?' around December. We tried to move the party to spring once before, but that wasn't going to fly with them," said Wheeler. "They love to dance better than anything."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.