HomeNewsArticle Display

Kadena Special Olympics creates bond for new Airman

Airman 1st Class Matthew Renfro gives Yuto Uehara a hug for luck before Yuto's next event Nov. 6, 2010, during the Kadena Special Olympics at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airman Renfro was a volunteer hugger for the event. He is assigned to the 18th Munitions Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson)

Airman 1st Class Matthew Renfro gives Yuto Uehara a hug for luck before Yuto's next event Nov. 6, 2010, during the Kadena Special Olympics at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airman Renfro was a volunteer hugger for the event. He is assigned to the 18th Munitions Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson)

Airman 1st Class Matthew Renfro runs with Yuto Uehara and his father in the 30-meter dash Nov. 6, 2010, during the Kadena Special Olympics at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airman Renfro was paired with Yuto, a young athlete during the event.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson)

Airman 1st Class Matthew Renfro runs with Yuto Uehara and his father in the 30-meter dash Nov. 6, 2010, during the Kadena Special Olympics at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airman Renfro was paired with Yuto, a young athlete during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- The excitement at Kadena Air Base's Risner Fitness Complex peaked Nov. 6 as the 837 athletes participating in the Kadena Special Olympics took the field. There weren't many more excited than one Airman from the 18th Munitions Squadron.

Airman 1st Class Matthew Renfro, originally from Spokane, Wash., is new to the island of Okinawa. He showed up to be a "hugger" to support the athletes. Athletes in all age groups were paired with "huggers," who acted as their personal cheerleaders.

"When I first showed up I was nervous about meeting my athlete and his or her family," Airman Renfro said. "Let alone the fact I didn't know how to speak a word of their language."

It was Airman Renfro's first time volunteering with the Kadena Special Olympics, and he was paired with a 7-year old boy named Yuto Uehara.

"The moment I met Yuto, I didn't know if he was going to interact with me at all," Airman Renfro said. "He was very shy and avoided me the best he could, but within a short period of time he was all about me; (eventually) we couldn't get enough of each other."

Airman Renfro described Yuto as an energetic little boy, like any other child he's ever known. He said if not for the event, he never would have guessed Yuto had a disability at all.

As they lined up for the 30-meter dash, Yuto, already holding his father's hand, made sure to take Airman Renfro's hand as well. Though not something Airman Renfro said he is used to, the small act felt to be second nature at the time.

"When Yuto held my hand for the first time," Airman Renfro explained, "I knew we were going to have a great time together that day, despite our inability to communicate (in the same language)."

Though the Special Olympics were only here for the day, Airman Renfro said he had become attached to young Yuto. And although the two had just met, they were running around as if they had been friends for years.

"Despite the language barrier, it's still fun interacting with the athletes," Airman Renfro said.

Volunteering with the Kadena Special Olympics wasn't about getting another bullet on his list, but about showing support for those who aren't appreciated on a regular basis the way he thinks they should be, he added.

By the time Yuto's second event came around, Airman Renfro was carrying around the young boy as if he were family. A tight hug before his event showed Yuto how much Airman Renfro was there to support him.

After all of the day's events, Yuto gave another hug and a high-five to Airman Renfro and ran back to the rest of his family. Yuto's father, with an appreciative smile and an "arigato gozaimasu", gave his thanks to Airman Renfro and followed his son.

The gratifying feeling from the day is just one of the reasons Airman Renfro said he will be volunteering again while he is stationed on Okinawa. He said he hopes to be able to find more events like the Kadena Special Olympics with which to help.

"Next year I'm going to volunteer in the hopes of seeing Yuto and his family again," he said, "and maybe make another friend whose memory will stick with me for years to come."

Engage

Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Rahn - thank you for being my wingman, battle buddy & best friend for these past 24 years. I’m a better me because of y…
Twitter
Back in action! A fleet of hail-damaged T-1A Jayhawk trainers are now back in the air thanks to a unique repair an… https://t.co/WyXlryDDYx
Twitter
Overwhelming #AirPower Check out @MitchellStudies podcast highlighting the aerospace advantage that helped ensure… https://t.co/4r0tZTw2XN
Twitter
A historic strategic air campaign, supported by the employment of revolutionary technology by Total Force Airmen an… https://t.co/mepQdN9rvt
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Great dialogue as well today with @IAFsite commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. Israel’s strategic importance in the Middle…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: The proven ability to employ air & space capabilities to achieve swift effects, as demonstrated during Operation Desert S…
Twitter
AFWERX helps make the Air Force work! @AFWERX is the #AirForce’s team of innovators that helps facilitate connecti… https://t.co/8ZxAaAEbNG
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Deadline extended! 🗓️ @usairforce housing residents now have until Feb. 5 to provide feedback. Don't miss your chance to be…
Twitter
RT @MDNG: .@175thWing members are supporting #COVID19 vaccination efforts at Maryland State Fairgrounds! The @MDNG has been activated to m…
Twitter
Fighting cyber crimes. #ICYMI: @SecAFOfficial declared @DC3Forensics a Field Operating Agency. Learn more at… https://t.co/jmFr4aCTva
Twitter
RT @SecDef: Our Armed Forces are at their best when they represent the talents of our entire population, regardless of gender identity. I f…
Twitter
Out w/the old, in w/the new “This allows Robins to efficiently perform the depot maintenance, getting the airplane… https://t.co/92QwJVAfBr
Twitter
B-1 + B-2 + B-52 = Super Bowl 55 Flyover! The @Chiefs and @Buccaneers punched in their tickets to #SuperBowlLV l… https://t.co/9BbZ8rdN7f
Twitter
RT @washingtonpost: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. joins The Post to discuss what it means to be the first Black chief…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary Roth’s message to #Airmen and #Guardians: “Our commitment to our duty remains steadfast: to support and…
Twitter
RT @NORADCommand: As competitors seek to bolster their presence and mil ops in the Arctic, NORAD support services such as @RCAF_ARC, @USAir
Twitter
Reunited “We haven’t been in the same room, car or space with each other for longer than one to three days in the… https://t.co/dyqzATb033
Twitter
Preserving the training pipeline! Aircrews from the 314th Airlift Wing flew approximately 20 Survival, Evasion, Re… https://t.co/dUV0YtfErk
Twitter
Delivering the vaccine The @UTNationalGuard expanded its support against #COVID19 to provide vaccinations & monocl… https://t.co/CeeGFKC9xK
Twitter
Check out the latest edition of #WeekInPhotos: https://t.co/KIMWxziCpE Which is your favorite? https://t.co/EUps7Hig2m
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,313,240
Follow Us