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Justice, Babydog award $50K to Wirt County Primary Center

Fourth-grader Waylon Brodgen pets Babydog on Tuesday morning when she and Gov. Jim Justice visited Wirt County Primary Center to present a $50,000 check to the school as part of the “Do It For Babydog” vaccine sweepstakes. (Photo by Candice Black)

ELIZABETH – A gymnasium full of masked students met Gov. Jim Justice and Babydog with cheers and applause as they came in Tuesday morning to present a $50,000 check to Wirt County Primary Center for the “Do It For Babydog” vaccine lottery sweepstakes.

Justice said he brought Babydog because “she makes you smile” and offered some words of encouragement to students about the importance of overcoming struggles, like the pandemic.

“When we have troubles in life, God above gave you the ability to smile and to laugh,” he said.

He also mentioned that people should follow in Babydog’s footsteps by loving everybody.

“We will get through this, we will absolutely get through this,” Justice said.

Randall Reid-Smith, who coordinated the visit with students at Wirt County Primary Center, Gov. Jim Justice and Babydog, hands third-grader Bella Smarr a sticker after she meets Babydog on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Candice Black)

As a way to help overcome the pandemic, Justice encouraged students to talk to their parents about getting vaccinated.

“The vaccines, to me, are buying time. They’re buying time for of the really smart people, scientists and the medical community to find a way to extinguish this,” he said.

He praised the Wirt County schools and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department’s efforts to get people vaccinated.

“It’s an incredible school, the kids were so good and they’re doing great work. We just to come and encourage to get more and more people vaccinated. We’re getting there, we’re really getting there,” Justice said. “Congratulations to a school that’s really doing a great job and really deserving and a wonderful county.”

Before Tuesday morning, Wirt County Primary Center principal Melissa Emerson had no idea the school would be receiving the check.

Gov. Jim Justice and Babydog presented a $50,000 check to Wirt County Primary Center on Tuesday morning as a prize for the “Do It For Babydog” vaccine lottery. (Photo by Candice Black)

“I was shocked. I think it’s amazing that the state is doing this. In this county, everybody has worked extremely hard, they have never let up,” Emerson said. “When you look at our scores, our scores did not drop the way other counties did. In fact, a lot of our scores went up and that’s because our teachers work so hard.”

The $50,000 will go toward technology and books.

“We do a lot of book studies, we try to get as many books in our hands as possible,” she said.

Emerson is grateful the students and staff in Wirt County are being recognized for their hard work.

“To really recognize how important education is and how hard you know the staff has worked, that’s amazing. It’s amazing to know that people care. The people (who) aren’t here every day realize how hard this is. It’s just an honor.”

Gov. Jim Justice gives Babydog a drink of water at Wirt County Primary Center during a $50,000 check presentation assembly. (Photo by Candice Black)

Because Wirt County is a rural community, Emerson said local children sometimes don’t have as much opportunity to go places and see things. She thought it was special for the students to be able to see Babydog and Justice.

“They’re not getting to go a lot of places, they’re not getting to have a lot of experiences. When something like this comes to them, it shows that they’re valued, that even little Wirt County, little Elizabeth, West Virginia, there’s a value to what you’re doing, what you’re learning and what your experiences are every day,” she said.

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