JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Several hundred parents, friends and community members gathered and enthusiastically cheered the youthful competitors in the Clover Park School District Special Olympics held at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood, Wash., June 12.

"This is a great event for the end of the school year for these children. It's a culmination of their physical therapies and brings them all together so they do not feel alone with their problems," said Sgt. 1st Class Jacques Hamilton, a Raider Ready Reserve intelligence non-commissioned officer-in-charge with 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Hamilton, whose 13-year-old son was born with a severe birth defect, has worked with many special needs teachers over the years. He finds participating in the program and seeing the kids evolve over time particularly rewarding.

Today, grinning, he happily passed out award ribbons to the winners of the "ball toss" competition. The mostly elementary and middle school kids' faces lit up with joy as they clutched the brightly colored strips in their hands, proud of their accomplishments.

The excitement of the ball toss was just a warm-up to the sprints which followed. Shouts of encouragement and support built in volume as group after group took to the field and crossed the finish line.

No matter how they placed, applause declared everyone a winner.

"This is my fourth year [attending the event]. It's good for the soul," said Hamilton.

The 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. is currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Raider Ready Reserve is organized, equipped and trained to execute rear detachment operations focused on maintaining soldier, family, training and equipment readiness that instill confidence in forward deployed commanders.