FORT SILL, Okla., April 19, 2018 -- More than 500 child athletes from Southwest Oklahoma competed at the ninth annual Great Plains Region Special Olympics at Prichard Field here April 13.

The 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and its subsidiary unit, 2nd Battalion, 6th ADA served as lead organizations for the event.

Southwest Oklahoma school athletes from 29 schools participated in the event, which had two categories of minors: the "Future Stars" events for ages 3 to 7 held at Honey Cut Gym; and age 7 to 18 held at Prichard Field. At both locations Fort Sill Soldiers and parents or guardians supported and cheered on the athletes.

Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, gave the keynote speaker welcome presentation and introduced Donna Sparks, overall lead for the event.

Special Olympics torch bearer Alex Ortiz bore the Special Olympics torch during the opening run.

The 30th ADA Brigade Color Guard presented the colors and Shayna Webb sang the national anthem. Sparks officially opened the event by signaling for the release of more than 500 balloons, one for each athlete. Capt. Kimberly Kopack, 2-6th ADA emceed the event.

Schoffner thanked the Special Olympics volunteers and presenters and wished the athletes well in their athletic endeavors.

"This isn't just for the Lawton-Fort Sill community," he said. "There are very few things we do that bring in so many different groups and represent so many different parts of the community here in Oklahoma (than Special Olympics).

"Thank you for inspiring us with your bravery and your undefeatable spirit," he said to the athletes.

Col. David Baxter, 30th ADA Brigade commander, also wished the athletes well.

"It's an honor for us to serve you in creating what we hope will be a lifetime of memories for you at this Olympiad," he said.

At least 1,500 spectators, parents, athletes, presenters, coordinators and athletes attended the roughly six-hour event on a warm spring day.

Events included: track and field, shot put, javelin throw, running and jumping events ,and wheelchair races.

Paisley Pointer, 10, attended the Special Olympics with her parents Debbie and Phillip Archer. Her three mentors also were on hand to support her.

"She has attended Special Olympics before. She loves participating in the Stars Program," Debbie said. "This is her second year doing the 25 (meter) partner walk and softball throw. She gets more active. She walks really fast. It helps her to walk. Softball helps her with her coordination to throw because usually she doesn't throw; she just drops (the ball)."

Schools represented included: Crosby Park, Eisenhower, Freedom, Hugh Bish, Patrick Henry, Pioneer Park Sullivan Village Elementory Schools; Central, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Tomlinson Middle Schools; and Eisenhower and Lawton High Schools; Anadarko Public Schools and Team Maddie, Amber-Pocasset, Cache, Comanche, Duncan Public Schools and Team Martin, Elgin, Heart of Oklahoma, Indiahoma, Marlow, Navajo, Rush Springs, Southwest Enterprises and Uniquely Me.