2019-04-05 / Front Page

Special Olympics tradition continues at Fort Gordon

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Quincey Knight, with Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School, prepares to launch into the 100-meter dash in the company of Sgt. Brandon Alexander, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion. Photo by Bill Bengtson /Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Quincey Knight, with Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School, prepares to launch into the 100-meter dash in the company of Sgt. Brandon Alexander, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion. Photo by Bill Bengtson /Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Barton Field was packed with athletes of nearly every age and ability last week for what has become a Fort Gordon tradition.

For the 35th year, Fort Gordon hosted the Georgia Area Nine Special Olympics Spring Games on March 28.

Roughly 700 athletes from seven counties spanning across Georgia and South Carolina competed in the games, which kicked off with an opening ceremony that included a parade of athletes led by the Fort Gordon Color Guard.

Brooke Zauner, of WRDW TV Channel 12, served as the master of ceremonies, and Col. David Ristedt, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center commander, was guest speaker.

Reflecting on last year’s games, Ristedt told the athletes he looked forward to cheering them on again this year.


Lynndale Lions member Angie Bragg, moments after completing the 400-meter walk, receives a ribbon with help from Spc. Deandra Maxwell, 297th Military Intelligence Battalion. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Lynndale Lions member Angie Bragg, moments after completing the 400-meter walk, receives a ribbon with help from Spc. Deandra Maxwell, 297th Military Intelligence Battalion. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs “A lot of the same things that we see in our Soldiers when we talk about the grit, the will to win, the ‘never quit’ attitude, doing your best – I was particularly struck by that last year,” Ristedt said.

Malachi Brown, 14, lit the Olympics cauldron with a torch, signifying the start of the games.

Athletes competed in multiple events including a 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, standing broad jump, running long jump, softball throw, shotput, relays and wheelchair events.

Karon Lester, of Washington County, was among hundreds of people cheering for the athletes. As the parent of a 5-year-old child on the autism spectrum, Lester said the event was a “breath of fresh air” for her and her competitor-son.

“He is enjoying himself by being himself, and he doesn’t have to cater to anyone else’s standards,” Lester said.

Arthur Dickerson, Area 9 Advisor Committee chairman, has been involved with the Special Olympics since 1969 and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. For him, seeing the kids’ faces light up makes everything worthwhile.

“Just to see the smiles on the athletes’ faces … Some of these athletes build friendships with the Soldiers, especially the high-functioning athletes, and that means a lot to them,” Dickerson said.

An estimated 350 Servicemembers volunteered for the games, fulfilling a wide range of roles. Without Fort Gordon’s support, Dickerson said the event would likely not happen.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to put these games on,” Dickerson said. “We couldn’t do the games without the Soldiers.”

Top finishers from the event will advance to compete in the 2019 State Summer Games at Emory University in Atlanta next month.

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