<b> FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>-The Special Olympics grew from a backyard summer camp established by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1962 for people with intellectual disabilities, to the global movement it is now; the Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes around the world for more than 40 years.

At home, Fort Stewart hosts the Special Olympics twice every year: the spring games at Cottrell Field in March and the winter games at Marne Lanes in December. The games are for children from Liberty and Long counties.

The 2009 winter games took place Dec. 11, as Marne Lanes hosted more than 110 athletes and 150 volunteers.

The athletes, ranging from ages 8-21, each bowled one game, with every participant getting a ribbon for the place in which they finished.

"It gives (the athletes) the chance to participate with the local community and to interact with other people. It gets them excited," said Mavis Crowell, Fort Stewart Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator. "We get great support from the Soldiers, Family Members and everyone on the installation."
Melissa Silinsky brought her son Daniel, 10, to the event. Daniel is in the 4th grade at Walker Middle School in Long County.

"This is one thing he can participate in, and he can get out and socialize with other children," Silinsky said. "He really enjoys competing."

Daniel, who is in a wheelchair, bowls often at home on his Nintendo Wii, but his mom said the Special Olympics is a great opportunity for him to do it for real, and to get to interact with others at the same time.

"He loves being out with people. He's definitely a people person," Silinsky said.

Specialist Bobby Fuller, 10th Transportation Company out of Hunter Army Airfield, was one of the 150 volunteers at Stewart Lanes.

"I like volunteering," said the former certified nursing assistant. "You come out here, and you see lots of real, true smiles. I love it."

Specialist Fuller volunteered with seven other Soldiers from his company.

"Some of the volunteers have come in as units, and that really helps improve team unity," said Vickie Wigington, Army Volunteer Corps Coordinator at Fort Stewart.

"Most people just see the military side of Soldiers; they just see the warrior," Spc. Fuller said. "Volunteering helps the community see us in a different way. If we want people to see us differently, we have to make the effort to change their perspective."

Wingington agreed.

"I think by (Soldiers) volunteering at different events around the community, it acknowledges that they're part of the community and trying to make it better," she said.

But it was not in question who the day was really about - the athletes.

"This is important for the kids because they see that there are volunteers here who really care," Spc. Fuller said.

"We're all helping each other. We're helping them, and they're helping us, too. The kids feel needed, and they are needed."

One athlete, Shanekia Donikens, 21, came out for love of the sport and said she had a great time.
"I like to bowl, and I bowl a lot on the computer," she said.

"The volunteers were really nice. I had a lot of fun."Aca,!f

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16