Full circle

The tragedy of a young girl and the community that pulled together to help her have come full circle as a dream becomes concrete.

Although its been open for about eight months, May 8 marked the official dedication of the Crystal Jenkins Memorial Track in Blackville behind Macedonia Elementary School.

Crystal Jenkins was a seven year old Blackville girl who was born with liver problems.

After she passed away in 1986, some of the funds raised for her operation were used later to help establish a paved walking track, said Blackville-Hilda school board member Willie Felder.

The percussion of the Carolina Cavaliers drifted through the evening air as a series of speakers spoke who knew Jenkins or were involved in the track's establishment.

"Thank you for what you have done for keeping the dream alive and making this a special moment for the Jenkins family," said brother Terrence Jenkins to community members and school officials.

"Crystal was a joy to be around; she was a real miracle child. The doctors said she wouldn't live to be a year old, but she was a fighter," said Jenkins' aunt, Carolyn Hicks.

Jenkins was born with biliary atresia, a disease in which the bile duct between the liver and small intestine is missing or blocked, said Jenkins' mother, Marilyn Ephriam.

Through the years, helping hands were extended from the community to Jenkins, she said.

"Everyone was so wonderful to us - from the beginning to the end," said Ephriam.

And when it was time for a liver transplant for Jenkins, the county stood by her.

"Everyone just jumped in. It was like God opened the clouds and poured forth good will," said Ephriam.

"It was a countywide initiative that went beyond the county, said Richard Creech, who was part of the fundraising for Jenkins.

Eventually, $150,000 was raised as fundraising efforts went statewide, said Ephriam.
"There are so many people to thank," said Ephriam.

Jenkins got the liver transplant in a 16-hour operation, but passed away shortly after it, she said.
The left-over money was divided up to help families in similar situations with the interest from it going to the Blackville-Hilda school district for recreation, said Felder.

"The money that was left went to good causes and helped others," said Ephriam.

Plans for the track were made more than 10 years ago by the school board and though it took some years for completion, Ephriam said she is honored to see the track established in remembrance of her daughter.

"Crystal's birthday is next month, June 4, so this is both a dedication and birthday present to her," said Ephriam. "She is up there looking over us ¬¬- I feel her presence."

Both the community and the students' presence is what Blackville-Hilda School District Athletic Director Mike Beasley was aiming for when the project was handed over to him seven years ago.
The four-lane quarter mile paved track - located off of Country Club Road behind the Macedonia Elementary School ¬- serves both the community and the school.

"Each year, we will be adding something to the track," said Beasley.

The track is lit at all times and there are no set hours for it, so people can take a stroll whenever they want, said Beasley.

The middle of the track is used as a multi-purpose field for soccer practice and middle school football practice, said Beasley.

"All the spring sports - softball, baseball, track and soccer are located in one site," said Beasley.
District superintendent Teresa Pope said the track will be the foundation for a future athletic complex.
Beasley said a concession stand, rest rooms, shrubbery and expanded parking will be added.

"Eventually, I'd also like to see speaker systems down here that could pipe out music as people walk - this is just the start."

Other donors for the track include Adams Nursery, Axis 1, Daphne Wood, Enterprise Bank, Joan Berry, town of Blackville, Walmart and Willie's Hardware.