By MIKE A. GLASCHApril 30, 2009
Volunteers are still needed for the South Carolina Special Olympics Summer Games. The 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment is hosting the games, which start Friday and run through the weekend.
"We were selected last year to conduct this event and it was such an uplifting experience, we fought for the opportunity to conduct it again this year," said the battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Randall Harris.
One thousand athletes from across the state are expected to compete in one of six different sports: aquatics, bowling, track and field, cheerleading, gymnastics and softball.
"After each of these athletes have trained for many hours, many weeks to compete in local events and then progress on to reach this level at a state competition, they are more than excited, more than proud, to show off their skills," said Kelly Garrick, Special Olympics sports director.
This will be the 41st year that Fort Jackson has hosted the event.
"We are excited to be a part of this event and look forward to an awesome weekend of sportsmanship and camaraderie," Harris said. "Not only do we have an opportunity to give back to the community, but our cadre experience a heart warming and uplifting time getting to know and support the athletes."
The festivities begin Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Statehouse steps where the State Law Enforcement Torch Run will begin. The 7-mile trek ends in front of the Solomon Center for the lighting of the cauldron.
"This competition particularly means so much to the athletes because of the warm reception and raucous level they find during the opening ceremonies," Garrick said. "The roar of the crowd and packed Solomon Center makes for a great time for all."
All the competition is slated for Saturday. The aquatics, bowling and softball events will take place on Fort Jackson. The track and field competition will be held at Richland Northeast High School and the gymnastics and cheerleading will be held at All-Star Gymnastics.
"The added interaction with Soldiers during the weekend - through their time in the mess hall, competing in their events, and dancing side by side at the Closing Ceremonies - makes this the ultimate in memorable experiences for our athletes," Garrick added.
"I think our athletes have similar effects on the Soldiers as they welcome the opportunity to help and to share their Army life with any athlete that asks."
If you would like to be a volunteer, contact the Special Olympics Volunteer Coordinator Edwena Lassiter at 722-1555 ext. 305.