Airmen support German-American Special Olympics

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
More than 1,600 volunteer and 800 athletes participated in the 27th annual German-American Special Olympics on the mobility police grounds here May 12.

Nineteen American schools and 39 German schools for people with disabilities from within the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community helped make the event a success.

The competition began with a parade of athletes, the lighting of the symbolic torch and opening remarks from  Karl Hohn, the director of the Police Academy, and Army Lt. Col. Kevin Hutchinson, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern commander.

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," echoed through the crowd of athletes as they stated the Special Olympics oath.

"This was my first time being a helper, and it's been great," said Airman 1st Class Matthew Kistler, an 86th Maintenance Squadron air space ground equipment technician. "To see the athletes participate and feel a sense of accomplishment was a better feeling than winning anything."

Some of the day's events included tennis, track and field, badminton, soccer, softball, volleyball, and basketball. There were also a number of activities for younger participants whose age ranged from 5 to 7.

With the combination of German and American athletes, it was easy to see the positive relationships between servicemembers and host nation participants.

"This event is building great community relations and shows how the Air Force does care about our host nation," said Tech. Sgt. Ray Otero, an 86th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. "It's my second year volunteering, and it makes me feel good to know we are making a difference with the kids."

While there were many returning volunteers from previous years, this year also brought along first-time attendees.

"This is my first time (volunteering), and it is very heartwarming to see all the volunteers making a fun-filled and wonderful day for the athletes," said Chaplain (Capt.) Benjamin Hines, the USAG Kaiserslautern chaplain.

After a day of friendly competition, the athletes were recognized during an awards ceremony where they all received their well-earned medals.

Two athletes were recognized for their enthusiastic and motivational participation and earned top honors: Milena Michel from Hans-Zulliger-School at Enkenbach and Diana Doronin from Jakob-Nuth-School in Kusel, Germany.

The event closed with the traditional uniting of hands between volunteers, athletes and family and the singing of "We Are the World," which displayed the partnerships of the Armed Forces here and their host nation.

The Special Olympics was founded on the belief that people with mental disabilities can learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports.