FORT STEWART, Ga. - Soldiers and volunteers cheered on local athletes as Fort Stewart hosted the annual Liberty County Spring Special Olympics at the Quick Track on Fort Stewart March 25.
However, due to the fires in Long County, children from Long County Schools were unable to attend the competition.

Founded in 1968, the mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Fort Stewart has hosted the Liberty County Special Olympics for the past 22 years, said Mavis Crowell, Fort Stewart Exceptional Family Member Program manager.

"We always get maximum participation from our Soldiers and Family Members and the Youth Challenge Academy," said Crowell. "This is an event I look forward to each year."

For one Soldier, the event was in honor of another.

Specialist Luis Dechoudens, a medic with Winn Army Community Hospital, wore the t-shirt of a Special Olympic athlete.

"I had a neighbor who gave me this t-shirt as a present, who was on a Special Olympics team - being here today is a favor to him," he said. "I want to do more things in the Army than just be a Soldier and [volunteering at the] Special Olympics is a good experience."

Specialist Dechoudens was one of about 100 volunteers at the Quick Track.

Lieutenant Keith Nelson, operations specialist with the Fort Stewart Georgia Youth Challenge Academy brought 50 cadets volunteers and color guard to the event from the YCA.

"To see the smile on these kids' faces after they run a race touches your heart," said Lt. Nelson.

The Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander, whose remarks opened completion, encouraged others to take part in future Special Olympic events.

"If you have never been to one of these events, I encourage you to come by and participate as either a volunteer, or just stop by and watch the event," said Col. Kevin Milton. "To have some folks cheer them on, it fires up [the athletes] and makes them feel good, and that's the reason we hold these events."

Sergeant John McDonald, assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, volunteered to pay back the kindness of those who helped him during his own time of need.

"I had a stroke when in Iraq," said Sgt. McDonald. "Volunteers came and helped me out, and helped me get back into shape and I just wanted to be out here to support the kids. It's good to be here."

Sergeant McDonald knows from experience the value of helping others.

"Think about all the times someone helped you in your life - try to pass that along."

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