2021 South’s Greatest Kids

Growing up in the South gives a special, magical air to childhood. Being a Southern child means spending a lot of time outdoors, having an innate sense of friendliness, loving animals, and possessing exceptional manners (as their parents tell us).

Growing up in the South gives a special, magical air to childhood. Being a Southern child means spending a lot of time outdoors, having an innate sense of friendliness, loving animals, and possessing exceptional manners (as their parents tell us).

Special thanks to the YMCA of Coastal Georgia, Habersham St, Savannah, for hosting this year’s “tykes,” young and old, as South celebrates its Greatest Kids, 2021. ymcaofcoastalga.org

Photography by Angela Hopper

1. Beckett Baum

Age: 13 months
Siblings: Boykin Spaniel puppy brother, Albie
Parents: Lauren & Matt

My name is Beckett, and I am a future mayor of Savannah in training. My campaign will be slow, but steady — as I hear that’s what wins the race. My fur-brother, Albie, is my campaign manager and accompanies me on all public outings, not to mention his unparalleled support behind the scenes. Together, we wave daily to cars, trucks and school buses from my front porch. We frequent all the Savannah hotspots, from the beach to the park to the Children’s Museum; I’m even a regular at a local restaurant, Bar Food Sports! Find me on the patio, jabbering away with my friends. And finally, as a true Southern boy, my natural charm and friendliness have already won the hearts of many friends and neighbors, and I look forward to carrying that charm with me straight to the mayor’s office one day.

2. Eitan & Matan Friedman

Age: Four years
Siblings: Jacob, Ari and Yosef
Parents: Ido and Kimberley Friedman

Yes, we are the Friedman twins. That is, one of the two sets of Friedman twins! You may have spotted us around town, since we can be hard to miss. Born and raised in Savannah, we both share a love for our home, from the people to all the outdoor fun right at our doorstep. But while we may be twins, we differ on a lot of things. For example, Eitan’s favorite show is Ninja Kids, but Matan’s favorite show is Sonic the Hedgehog. Eitan likes soccer, but Matan prefers gymnastics. Matan’s favorite restaurant is Spanky’s, but Eitan likes the options he has at Starland Yard. Sometimes, we just agree to disagree, because when it comes down to it, you really can’t go wrong either way — it’s a twin thing!

3. Jude Robert (JR) Fitchitt

Age: 13 months
Siblings: Twin Brothers Ben & Lincoln (South magazine 2019)
Parents: David Fitchitt

My name is Jude Robert and I am carrying on the Fitchitt children’s family legacy by carrying the South magazine’s “Greatest Kids” contest torch from my twin brothers, (Ben and Lincoln winners in the 2019 contest). Legacy is important in my family, and as the son of two U.S. military veteran parents, I am proud to begin making my own mark on the Fitchitt family name at a mere 13 months old. I am growing up in Florida, but we love to come back to visit Savannah. We’ve kept our roots in the South, and I am a Southern boy through and through. My favorite pastimes include riding around in my Ford Raptor truck and chasing chickens with my big brothers — you know, man stuff. Oh, and my favorite show is Sunny Bunnies, which is fitting living in the Sunshine State.

4. Ollie Jean-Louis Nelson

Age: Two years
Siblings: Hannah (aka Sissy) Nelson
Parents: My Mop (aka Mama)

My name is Ollie Jean-Louise, and I am Hannah’s younger sister, or “Sissy” as I call her. Sissy and I may be 13 years apart in age, but we share a special bond that is unique to us, but probably relatable to a lot of sisters. She’s a soccer superstar, but I’m still getting my legs. Right now, I’m super into chucking things around (maybe I’ll steer my athletic genes toward softball…), giving high fives, insisting I can do everything myself, singing songs, and monogrammed clothing. My favorite places to play are Jepson Children’s Museum and Forsyth Park. Sissy and I both enjoy walking the trails at Oatland Island and driving through the Wildlife Preserve, as well as going to the Bananas games.

5. Hannah Nelson

Age: 15 years
Siblings: Ollie “Bean” Nelson
Parents: Mop 

My name is Hannah, and I’m just here to keep an eye on my sister, Ollie Jean. Just kidding, I’m glad to be a part of South’s “Greatest Kids” of 2021. I’m an avid soccer player and play for the premier club team Coastal Empire FC year-round. I am also an active member of my church, where I attend youth group and volunteer for the children’s ministry. Additionally, I like going on mission trips and serving around the country!

 I’m also here to give a more mature voice for local recommendations. As an avid part of the community, I think I’ve been around enough to know all the best spots. I’ll agree with the other kids, Spanky’s is pretty good, but my more refined palate enjoys Japanese food. I like Miyabi’s and Seasons of Japan.

6. Jackson Gay

Age: 13 years
Jackson is the baby of seven(!) with six Siblings: Jesse Gay, Sean Gay, Whitney Norwood, Madison Bennett, Makenzie Garner, and Garrett Garner
Parents: Sammy & Mary Gay

This goes out to all the youngest siblings out there…I feel your pain—times six. I am the youngest of seven, so shout out to my parents. They are truly doing the most. In true Southern fashion, I love baseball. I love playing baseball, watching baseball, and playing baseball again in my free time. I share the other kids’ love for chicken fingers and also support the others’ Spanky’s recommendation. What can we say, they’ve got some top-notch tenders. I’m team dog (sorry, nothing personal against cats) and team beach (the mountains are cool, but c’mon, Tybee is where it’s at). I’m also team “Friends,” which is my favorite show (not sorry, Seinfeld).

Sofia Cat 0139 Copy

7. Sofia & Cat Medina

Age: 10 months old
Siblings: Each other and some furry friends
Parents: Juan and Tiffany Medina

While we — Sofia and Cat — are the youngest of this bunch, we have wisdom beyond our years. We are Savannah kids through and through, and love any and all things around town. We love exploring Plant Riverside District, as well as Forsyth Park. Both places have so many different corners to scope out and so much to see! We’ve been to all the squares and love investigating the trees we encounter. As Southern girls, we love watching the beautiful sunsets on the water and jamming to country music. Our favorite show right now is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and we are some Disney girls in the making. Our parents are the sweetest, and they’ve referred to us as “the brightest lights in [their] world.” Our goal is just to explore and indulge our adventurous spirit, taking on the world together as sisters and twins!

8. Mason & Silas Jeffress

Age: 10 and five years, respectively
Parents: Craig and Alena Jeffress

We — Mason and Silas — are taking on the world barefoot, literally. They say there’s nothing like running through the grass without shoes in the summertime, but in Savannah, we can get away with ditching our kicks year ‘round. We love living close to the beach. We can fish early in the morning on Tybee Island and hang out by the jetties at North Beach, toes in the sand. We also share a love for baseball and catch as many Savannah Bananas games as we can over at Grayson Stadium. While we have different tastes when it comes to TV shows (being five years apart)—Mason’s favorite is MLB channel and Silas loves Power Rangers—we can always agree when it comes to Swamp People. If you’re eating out in Savannah, we highly recommend the Caesar salad, chicken fingers and mashed potatoes at The Olde Pink House.

9. Finn Kurena

Age: 14 years
Siblings: Anna and June
Parents/caretakers: Kindell and Adam Kurena + April and Eddie Likens

Big screen, here I come! My name is Finn, and I am excited to live in the “Hollywood of the South.” Georgia has carved itself a bit of a reputation in the film industry, and I intend to do the same. I have a passion for acting, specifically in theater, and Savannah has so many cool opportunities to get involved and practice my skills! In addition to theater, I enjoy connecting with my community in other ways, including serving as president of Savannah Youth Council and member of the Savannah Youth Ambassador program. When I’m not running around town, I enjoy video games and pizza, just like any other 14-year-old. Donatos Pizza is where it’s at!

10. Liam Long

Age: 19 months
Parents: Kathryn and Austin Long

When people talk about being a “true” Southern boy, they talk about manners, being polite and enjoying the outdoors. But I take it to the next level: I’m all about feeding the hunting dogs, goats and rabbits. My family is building a farm, so I get to help out by taking care of all the animals, plus, they’re pretty cute, honestly. There’s a reason we Southern kids love playing outside — it’s beautiful! I enjoy exploring everywhere, from the country to downtown Savannah where I hang out at the parks when I visit my grandparents. As a 19-month-old, I love chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and fries, and my favorite shows are Muppet Babies and Blippo. I’ve got a pretty exciting life, and I look forward to when the farm is up and running in full force!

To read this story in its entirety, subscribe now to the print edition for the full article or get instant access to our interactive digital edition.