AIKEN - Families, friends, teachers and school administrators of 238 Aiken County pupils gathered Saturday to celebrate outstanding examples of character.
After an animated performance of Aretha Franklin's Respect by South Aiken High School's Puppets for Peace, Mayor Fred Cavanaugh commended everyone present for maintaining and recognizing worthy character traits.
Drew Meloan, a fourth-grader at Aiken Elementary School was nominated by his teacher, Connie Farrell.
His parents, Marsha and Andy Meloan, and his grandparents accompanied the young model citizen to the Celebration of Character reception at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School downtown but kept the reason for going a surprise.
"It was pretty cool," Drew said after he was awarded a certificate by the mayor. Drew attributed his good character to his parents and Covenant Academy Christian School in Macon, Ga.
After the program, the family was headed to a reception in Drew's honor, where all his family and friends would celebrate his award together.
One special nominee was missing from the program. Melissa Colette Guess, a Silver Bluff High School senior, died March 12 from cystic fibrosis. Her mother, Tammy Hyder, accepted the award for her, explaining that Melissa never did like award ceremonies.
The entire program was in dedication of the example of character that Melissa showed.
Mary Thomas, a teacher and close friend of Melissa's, said the teen-ager touched many lives with her example.
"Through our association with Melissa and the way she chose to live her life, I believe we all have a better appreciation for our own lives," Ms. Thomas said. "And through this appreciation of life, we become people of character."
Royal-blue banners flanked the stage with the words sincerity, respect, self-control, responsibility, attentiveness, loyalty, courage, citizenship, truthfulness, patience, compassion and forgiveness, as each recipient met the mayor and accepted his or her certificate.
The same banners hang through out the city, reminding passers-by of positive character traits.
"That's the only way our country is going to be better tomorrow than it is today," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "If each of us is doing the best we can do, wherever it is, we can show those good, positive characteristics we have inside us."
Saturday's ceremony was held by the city and the Joint Woman's Clubs of Aiken.
Reach Lisa Lohr at (803) 279-6895 firstname.lastname@example.org.