Fort Gordon continues legacy of support to Special Olympics games
On March 26 the Fort Gordon quarter-mile physical training track on Barton Field will undergo a transformation. Hundreds of athletes, who have trained hard, will compete in numerous sporting events in the 2014 Fort Gordon and Georgia Area 9 Special Olympics games.
“ We are expect ing between 500 and 900 participants,” said Neil J. Smith, the director of sports, fitness and aquatics for the Fort Gordon Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and one of the installation event project officers. “Most of them will be between the ages of 5 and 60 years old.”
This is the 30th year Fort Gordon has hosted the games, according to Jerry L. Swain Jr., the co-installation event project officer. “Fort Gordon has proudly hosted the Special Olympics since 1984.”
Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with the lighting of the torch at the reviewing stands, surrounded by 50 state flags set up at the east end of Barton Field. Members of the U.S. Army 434th Signal Corps will play the Special Olympics opening theme song.
A Fort Gordon color guard will lead the procession of Special Olympians around Barton Field.
Special Olympics athletes from schools in several Georgia counties will be involved including Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Hancock, Glascock, Jefferson, McDuff ie, Wi lkes , Washington, Lincoln, Warren and Taliaferro. The athletes will be competing in many sports events including softball throw, standing long jump, wheelchair 10- and 20-meter roll, body bowling and the 10-, 15- and 25-meter tricycles races.
They will also be competing in 50-, 100-, and 200-meter dashes, running long jump, wheelchair slalom event, tennis ball throw, and assisted walk and development activities.
With these games everyone takes something special away from the experience. “Participants gain a worthwhile experience competing, whether they win or lose, they are winners,” said Swain.
“Volunteers gain a strong sense of camaraderie and accomplishment, knowing they are part of an excellent program that provides an opportunity for members of our society to show the world their abilities and not their disability,” he explained. “Seeing the smiles on their faces makes it worth it all.”
Special Olympics, which is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, provides year-round training and competitions to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. Special Olympics competitions are held around the world – including local, national and regional competitions.
The forerunner of Special Olympics was Camp Shriver. In 1962 Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Potomac, Md. She started the camp because she was concerned about children with intellectual disabilities having no place to play. Through her untiring efforts Camp Shriver grew into what we know today as the Special Olympics, and she is recognized as the founder of the program.
The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in 1968 at Soldiers Field in Chicago, Ill. About 1,500 athletes from the United States and Canada took part in the oneday event, which was a joint venture by the Kennedy Foundation and the Chicago Park District.
The Special Olympics programs are available for athletes free of charge.
While most of the athletes are signed up and ready to compete, there’s still a need for volunteers to help run the events in the field. An organizational meeting will take place March 24 at 5 p.m. at the Regimental NonCommissioned Officers Academy, Building 24402, located at 25th Street and Lane Avenue on Fort Gordon. Anyone who would like to volunteer to may contact Jerry Swain at 791-643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is open to the public, and admission is free. The Area 9 Special Olympics will be selling refreshments, according to Smith. In case of inclement weather, the rain date is March 27.
“Parents and guardians are encouraged to bring anyone they know that has a disability and not affiliated with a school or group home, in hopes that they will also want to compete in future Olympics,” said Swain.