Fort Sill hosts Special Olympics for third consecutive year
April 5, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 5, 2012) -- Fort Sill hosted the Great Plains Area 4 Special Olympics March 30 at Prichard Field for the third consecutive year. About 540 athletes of all ages from Southwest Oklahoma participated in 20 track and field events in the regional competition.
Many of the participants will go on to Oklahoma State Special Olympics in Stillwater, May 9-11.
"It is wonderful that Fort Sill was so gracious to invite us and that they gave their Soldiers time to help us learn and play," said Brooke Bazan, Pat Henry Elementary School special education teacher. "We couldn't ask for a better team than Fort Sill."
Pat Henry Elementary is one of about 30 schools and agencies that participated in the games.
Athletes represented their schools and paraded around the track with Soldiers in the opening ceremony "March of the Athletes." Visitors cheered as the athletes waved to the crowd and walked behind their schools' banners. To accompany the march, the 77th U.S. Army Band's ceremonial band played the anthem from "Rocky" and other inspirational music.
Shawn Peck ran the ceremonial torch onto the track with Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, and Lawton police officers, to open the games.
In his welcome, Col. Brian Dunn, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill chief of staff, acknowledged the people who made the games possible.
"A very special thanks from Team Sill to all of the parents, the educators and teachers, and the volunteers, who gave all of their time to make this a reality," Dunn said. "Without you, an event of this magnitude is not even possible."
Then Donna Sparks, Great Plains Area Special Olympics director, led the crowd reciting the Special Olympics' oath: "Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt."
The 2-6th ADA hosted and organized the event here, said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Gooden, 2-6th ADA command sergeant major.
"Three years ago we hosted the event so well that we continued to maneuver with it," he said.
About 270 of the battalion's Soldiers volunteered at the Special Olympics, and virtually every unit, agency and directorate here had volunteers.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marcus Swearengen, 4-3rd ADA, said he volunteered because the Special Olympics is "near and dear to my heart." One of his duties was to be a buddy to athlete Michael Foght, 15, who participated in the long jump and 50-meter run.
"My role as a buddy is to provide motivation and guidance, and just to make his day spectacular," Swearengen said.
In track and field events at Prichard Field, each athlete participated in two events, and everybody was a winner regardless of their finish.
Soldiers and volunteers pinned ribbons on athletes as they stood on podiums after each event to the applause of onlookers.
Honeycutt Fitness Center was set up for the "Stars of the Future," Special Olympians ages 3 to 8, to participate in play activities. The gym was filled with stations where children could ride tricycles, get pulled on a blanket, run an obstacle course and more, all with assistance from volunteers.
That's where Bazan had her autistic kindergartners and first graders.
"This is a great way for them to socialize with other kids and with adults, to make eye contact and to have fun," she said.
The Special Olympics truly embraces the commitment the Army has made with its Community Covenant and Army Family Covenant, said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director.
"We're really proud the Special Olympics team has asked Fort Sill to be a participant and help support it," she said. "We're incredibly proud of the number of schools that come out and bring their students here. It's a wonderful event."