NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia -- Eighteen Soldiers from Fort Eustis' 689th Rapid Port Opening Element provided local support during the recent 45th Annual George Green Field Day in Newport News, Va., April 25.
The event brought together more than 600 special needs students from the Greater Hampton Roads area to participate in 40 assorted sporting events.
The event kicked off with a parade of smiling faces as students waived and proudly carried their school banners into the stadium before a crowd of cheering parents, volunteers, and coaches.
The opening ceremony included a special treat of three inspiring performances starring the "On Point Dancers," from the Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News.
"Today's event is named in honor of George Green, the first African American physical education teacher and coach in the Newport News School District," said Susan McAuliffe, event organizer and lead for the Newport News Public Schools Adopted and Individualized Physical Education Program. "Coach Green had a special interest in providing quality programs for students with disabilities since 1971. After seeing his daughter, a child with Downs Syndrome, come home from school in tears because she felt left out of the school's field day event, Coach Green decided to hold his own field day for children with disabilities."
"It is great seeing Soldiers from Fort Eustis and ROTC cadets from Denbigh High School helping out," said volunteer McAuliffe said. "It gives them an opportunity to interact with students with special needs to make them feel included while providing them encouragement."
"The RPOEs have volunteered to provide support for the field day at Todd Stadium for the past five years. We are honored to be invited back every year," said 1st Sgt. Michael Mckeller, first sergeant for the 689th RPOE. "It's a great way to give back to the community while teaching Soldiers about public outreach and mentorship."
After Green's retirement, Newport News Elementary School PE teachers continued to host this city-wide field day in his honor. The event has grown exponentially over the years and now has more than 32 schools participating.
This year, parents, volunteers, and other community members helped setup and man the sporting events such as the obstacle course, parachute toss, snow ball game, football toss, potato sack race and scoop ball.
"Our cadets have been volunteering here for the past four years and they get a great feeling from giving back to the community and helping children have a fun filled day," said Shirley Mundy, a retired Army master Sargent and Denbigh High School ROTC instructor. "Community service is one of our many projects and I think it helps our students to become better citizens.
"My game was really neat. Kids raced to a pile of Mr. Potato head pieces and got to build their version of Mr. Potato Head. They yelled, 'FRENCH FRIES!' when they were done," said Pfc. Tessa Kramer who assisted the potato head relay game. "My favorite part of the day was seeing all of the creative versions the kids built. There were smiles and laughs all around."
"This is great weather, perfect for kids to have fun and its great see excitement on kid's faces. We get to tell our story and talk to people in the community," said second year volunteer Spc. Ian Lubert. "Its been exciting to interact with the students from our local community."
Lubert exchanged a "high five" with each student as they crossed the finish line for the football toss.
"Today was awesome. It's great to make a difference and see how excited the kids get. I even got a hug, said Pfc. Kenneth Gaudelias. "This is my way of giving back and showing that we care about society. It's nice for people to see that were not just here to fight wars, we are here to help people and improve the world one smile at a time when we can."