2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
1 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Stewart Johnston, Auburn Parks Flying Wheels, focuses on staying with his teammate in an eight-lap race in the cycling event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunteer... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
2 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rosemary Wells, Moses Lake, strides toward the finish line in first place on the final lap of the female 800-meter walk at the track and field event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
3 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Josh Caldwell, Marysville Bigfoot, lands in the sand for his final attempt in the running long jump at the track and field event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volun... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
4 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kendall Lum, Issaquam Eagles, leaps into the air for his final attempt landing at 2.98 meters in the running long jump at the track and field event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. E... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
5 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Patrick Gardner, BKAT Mighty BKATs, grazes the bar as he moves to the next height in the high jump at the track and field event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunte... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
6 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rhena Necco, Fidalgo Lightning, takes the ball down field away from Marysville Hurricane defenders in a soccer game during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunteer and coach... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
7 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Roger Rudzant, Marysville Hurricanes, takes the ball away from a Fidalgo Lightning defender in a soccer game during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunteer and coach displa... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
8 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The BKAT Wildcats received ribbons for 4th place in the juniors division of the soccer event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunteer and coach displayed what the "Fl... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
9 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Bonnie Kienzle, a competitor with the Wolves on Wheels, hugs Sgt. Thomas Winklebleck, a wheeled vehicle operator with 523rd Composite Truck Company, as she gets of the bus at the cycling event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
10 / 10 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cyclists lean into their bicycles as they begin a long distance race at the cycling event during the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 31. Each athlete, volunteer and coach displayed what the "Flame... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Spectators applauded approximately 2,800 athletes as the "Flame of Hope" was carried onto McChord Field's Heritage Hill symbolizing the start of the 2015 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, May 29-31.

The "Flame of Hope" represented all the athletes as they competed in swimming cycling, track and field, soccer and powerlifting over the following two days.

"The flame signifies the hope of all the athletes to be tested like champions," said Dan Wartelle, vice president Communications and Development, SOWA. "It is represented in all the athletes, coaches and volunteers throughout the event. The flame burns in all of us to continue."

The mission of SOWA offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and have fun during year-round sports training and athletic competition.

The athletes also had the opportunity to receive free dental, vision, hearing and general health screenings by physicians and healthcare professionals through the Healthy Athlete program between competitions to further their physical health.

"We had more than 1,100 competitors get checked for proper fit of shoes and health screenings by healthcare professionals from the Children's Hospital and volunteers from around the area including Madigan Army Medical Center," said Wartelle.

The Special Olympics hosted its first competition in 1968 with 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada competing at Soldier Field in Chicago. Now the Special Olympics have grown to more than 1.7 million athletes worldwide in 150 countries.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has hosted the Washington Special Olympics for the past 42 years. SOWA receives support from thousands of volunteers who serve as coaches, sports officials, committee members and on-site volunteers at competitions and fundraising events.

"We would not be able to do the event without the awesome support of JBLM and its service members," said Wartelle. "They provide all the facilities for the events like locations and housing for the athletes and the Soldiers help tremendously throughout the competition."

The volunteer support from JBLM and surrounding area allows athletes, both new and returning, to compete and enjoy the festivities in between events.

"It is awesome to come down here to compete," said Taryn Holmes, an athlete on the Kulsha Thunderbirds soccer team. "The volunteers and Soldiers are really nice and helpful."

This is Holmes' second year competing with her team. The skills they learned during training helped them work better as a team to take first place in their division.

"The games is about showing people there is hope to compete no matter who you are," said Holmes. "Don't be afraid to compete. Just have fun together."