Friday morning started out as an award ceremony for crossing guard Sadie Gayton at Ebinport Elementary School in Rock Hill. It turned into a Beyonce concert.
And Sadie Gayton was Beyonce.
A throng of hundreds of kids chanted “Sadie! Sadie!” It was a rollicking ovation, and a parade through the school, for the 64-year-old woman who keeps the kids safe, feeds them and then cleans up after them.
Because simply, the kids at Ebinport love “Ms. Sadie.”
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So they lined the halls, and filled the cafeteria, and screamed at the top of their lungs.
And Ms. Sadie, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, hugged them all, and cried.
Gayton was named outstanding crossing guard of the year for the Upstate of South Carolina by the S.C. Safe Routes group. Assistant Principal Brian Hollingsworth called the nomination an easy choice.
Because there is only one Sadie Gayton.
“But she is so much more to all of us,” Hollingsworth said.
Gayton, who has worked at the school since 2003 after a life of working in a textile mill, is a crossing guard in the morning and the afternoon. She is a cafeteria worker midday, and after school she cleans the buiding.
“Ms. Sadie keeps us all safe and we thank her,” said third-grader Lillian Wren, 9.
Fourth-grader Gabby Meeks, 9, put it like this: “Ms. Sadie is the best.”
After the award was given, which was a surprise even to the students, the older children in higher grades cheered in a packed lunchroom where Gayton’s smile is served up with the green beans. Then the younger kids, some with posters and signs, chanted her name and begged her to walk through all of them.
So she did.
Gayton walked like royalty through devoted and loyal subjects. She high-fived, she hugged, and she cried. The kids stomped and hollered and sang.
And when it was over, Gayton said that every child in that school is her child, her grandchild. She loves them all.
And she liked her parade, too, and thanked the students.
“I loved every bit of it. These are all my babies,” Gayton said.
Then she left down the hall. Lunch had to be prepared, and Ms. Sadie always does her job.