FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Children and young adults bounced rubber balls at outsized pins, flung disks through upright hoops, kicked footballs and more during Fort Benning's sixth annual Exceptional Family Member Program Field Day May 10 at York and Stewart-Wilson fields and at Smith Fitness Center here.
The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) and the Exceptional Family Member Program hosted the field day, now in its sixth iteration, to 1,136 participants and 475 volunteers and educators from Fort Benning and surrounding school districts, including Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City, Alabama.
Volunteers provide ability-appropriate activities, outdoor games and events for athletes ages 3 through 21 years old who have impaired hearing or vision, use wheelchairs, have disabilities, are autistic, have medical or educational needs, and are EFMP enrollees.
Col. Clinton W. Cox, the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning commander, helped cut the ribbon, officially opening the event. This was his second time hosting the event.
"It's a great opportunity to connect," said Cox. "It's a great opportunity to do something for others, to show our commitment to our children."
The event began as an opportunity to celebrate the athleticism of enrollees in the EFMP at Fort Benning. Lori Smith, the chief for sports, fitness and aquatics at Fort Benning, is one of the organizers of the event.
"It was relatively small; we had just a few Fort Benning kids," said Smith of the inaugural field day.
During subsequent EFMP field days, the garrison invited exceptional family members from the surrounding school districts and home-schooled children as well. The number of athletes grew beyond 1,000.
"It's just a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community, to bring the community together," said Smith. "You've got kids that are everywhere. You've got civilians that work inside the gate, and you've got Soldiers that live outside the gate."
Soldiers, Marines, Family members, high school students and more volunteered for the event. Volunteers reset bowling pins, gave assists to children making slam dunks, prepared meals for attendees, and toward the end of the event helped hand out medals. Members of Fort Benning leadership, including Cox, hung medals around the competitors' necks to celebrate the competitors' achievements.
"The kids love it," said Cox. "You'll see it on their face ... as they get the medals hung on them after they compete in these events. It's just a special thing, and I'm glad we're able to do it."
To learn more about the Exceptional Family Member Program or volunteer opportunities or to see a photo album from this event, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.