A very special week for Billy

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This is a very special week for Billy Simmons Jr., a young man who is admired by everyone in Bainbridge and Decatur County.

On Tuesday, after five years as a dedicated employee of Goodwill Industries, he began a new job in peer support with Bainbridge Advocacy Individual Network (BAIN) Inc. Center For Independent Living, and today he celebrates his 37th birthday.

Billy has a disability, but it does not stop him or slow him down one bit.

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Earlier this summer, he had foot surgery to straighten out his toes, a procedure that will ultimately help him walk better. He has had some pain, but he has not complained, and has has dealt with it like a real champion.

Billy loves sports and he often uses sports clichés when we are talking. One day when he was in some obvious pain, I asked him if there was anything I could do for him.

“No,” he said with a slightly forced grin. “Like the athletes say, no pain, no gain.”

At BAIN, Billy will be working for another one of my favorite people, Executive Director Virginia Close Harris, who this year won the prestigious Natalie Norwood Tomlin Georgia Self Advocate of the Year Award.

Before suffering her disability, Virginia was an outstanding forward on coach Bobby Trawick’s Bainbridge High School Lady Cats basketball team.

There is a big day coming up for Billy, who gave the keynote address at the recent 19th anniversary celebration of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act sponsored by BAIN, which he has prominently marked on his calendar. It is next Friday, Aug. 21, the day that he will have his cast taken off.

I have no doubt that Billy will do an outstanding job in his new position. He connects with people and makes friends as well as anyone I have ever met.

Billy will have to miss the Bainbridge High School Bearcat football season opener Saturday, Aug. 22, against the Cairo High School Syrupmakers at Cairo’s West Thomas Stadium, but he should be there on the sidelines for the home opener Friday, Aug. 28, against the Early County High School Bobcats at Centennial Field making sure the players have plenty of water during time outs.

Billy works with certified athletic trainer Chris Summers during the season.

In preparation for their opening game with Cairo, coach Ed Pilcher’s Bearcats will play a preseason game this Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Dougherty High School Trojans from Albany.

Year in and year out, Dougherty is usually the top-rated team in Albany, which is also home for the Albany High School Indians, Monroe High School Tornadoes and Westover High School Patriots.

I hope all our fans will come out to Centennial Field Friday night and let coach Pilcher, his staff and the Bearcats know how much we are behind them.

The football team, and our award-winning Marching Bearcat Band and cheerleaders have all worked hard in preparation for the season, and they all deserve our support.