Kadena hosts the eighth annual Special Olympics

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kasey Zickmund
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
"Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt."

With the start of the Special Olympics oath, more than 900 athletes and 200 artists gathered here Sunday for one of Japan's biggest events - 2007 Special Olympic Games.

More than 1,500 volunteers from different branches of the U.S. military and the local community helped put on the event. The volunteers helped in a variety of duties that included: translation, score keeping, medal presentations, logistical and medical support, and food preparation and distribution.

"This event exemplifies the volunteer spirit and radiates throughout the American and Japanese communities as we celebrate the achievements of special needs athletes and artists throughout Okinawa," said Chip Steitz, senior advisor for Kadena's Special Olympics.

Preparations for the event were monumental. The planning committee worked for six months and spent more than 4,000 volunteer hours getting ready for the large numbers of athletes and activities. There were 30 different teams that were responsible for food, volunteers, events, entertainment, security, and medical needs.

"I've been amazed by the volunteers here," said Alonna Barnhart, chairman of the Special Olympics. "I was in the commissary and people would stop me to ask how they can help. Without the volunteers this event would not be possible."

The cost to put on the event was about $70,000 and it was all raised through fundraisers like "Fill the boot," "Tip a Cop," "Fun run," golf tournaments, and by cash donations. The fundraisers were done with the help of volunteers.

"I volunteered this year because I did last year and it was a blast," said Airman 1st Class Jennifer Scott, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, structural maintainer. "I love the kids who come out here. I think it is great they have an opportunity to show us their strong points, and to see everyone from the different services and the local community out here cheering them on."

The goal of the event was to show Special Olympians as incredible people who have overcome tremendous hurdles and serve as role models of persistence, acceptance and hope, according to Brig. Gen. Brett Williams, 18th Wing commander.

"Kadena has taken great pride in hosting the Special Olympics for the past eight years," said General Williams at the opening ceremony. "The commitment and dedication of each person here promotes better lives for people with special gifts reaching far beyond the confines of the stadium and this event."

Athletes participated in a wide range of events which included the 100-meter dash and ground golf among many others. Artists also displayed their talents in an art show in the Kadena High School Gymnasium. The event benefited not only the athletes and artists, but also their families.

"We are having a lot of fun," said Kiyono Teruya, mother of Riku Teruya, 9, who competed in the 50-meter dash. "My favorite thing is the cartoon characters, and the volunteers are a big help. I can't wait to come back next year with my son."

According to the Special Olympics chairman, the event has grown each year. This year's event, she said, approached the maximum capacity for its present location.