Love is the most profound of emotions we will ever feel. With love and respect, the Vilonia community stood tall and mighty Thursday night through a beautiful display of integrity.

Thursday night was the first I'd witnessed the Hoops Classic. For five years, the school has hosted the Soaring Eagles Hoops Classic, bringing families, educators and students together for an amazingly inclusive event aimed at bettering the public school experience for students with disabilities.

The student vs. faculty basketball game was truly inspiring to observe.

In the crowd, hundreds filled the bleachers as they cheered on for both teams. When everyone supports their neighbors, classmates, educators and administrators, no one loses. And while the students boasted a 50-27 win over the Eagle Educators, everyone went home happy and with a sense of fulfillment following the night's event.

Smiles were not scarce.

The energy and excitement that filled the Vilonia High School Gymnasium from 6-8 p.m Thursday was surreal. It was incredible.

Watching they joy on the faces of athletes with special needs made everyone in the room feel special. I felt special just watching the event run its course.

Vilonia brags being an inclusive community that embraces the special needs community and allows students with disabilities to develop further among their peers. Faculty and parents in the district are extremely involved, and it shows.

The amount of effort put into including and the level these athletes were able to take part Thursday was humbling.

Along with the many students and faculty actively involved in the event — high school band members, Little Dribblers players and coaches and unified cheer squad — around 350 community members attended and helped raise $1,700 to help support the Encouraging Persons in Inclusive Communities (EPIC) program. The EPIC program works to establish a support system for parents of students with special needs within the Vilonia Public Schools District.

Vilonia residents and the Vilonia Public Schools District have shown their hearts are strong and bold in extending the care and respect to the special needs community as they have through the years and as they continue to do so in the coming years.

Know of a local resident who deserves recognition, have a question regarding a Faulkner County issue or want to provide a news tip? Contact Log Cabin Democrat reporter Marisa Hicks via email at mhicks@thecabin.net or by phone at 501-505-1277. Hicks has served on the LCD’s team for three years as the local crime reporter.