Six hundred and fifty cadet and community volunteers who assisted and cheered for 650 athletes were out in force for the 26th annual Hudson Valley Regional Special Olympics held at Shea Stadium April 24.

Athletes participated in the 30-meter, 50-meter and 100-meter track and field events, swimming, long jump, high jump and shot put. Adapted games for wheelchair races and other events were also included.

"The best part (of the Olympics) is the cadet and athlete relationships," Firstie Caroline Taft, cadet-in-charge of the Special Olympics, said. "The cadets work closely with the Special Olympics. It's great leadership training and some cadets still stay in contact with their athletes. It's a fun day for everyone."

The West Point Sport Parachute Club and the USMA Band field music group, the Hellcats, entertained the athletes and attendees with a parachute demonstration and lively music.Volunteer from the West Point Middle School, Cece Kroeger, assisted athlete Rusty Wilkins in the wheelchair races and said she has a reason for wanting to volunteer at the Special Olympics.

"This is my first year and this is good for me," Wilkins said. "I have two pre-school brothers with autism and this will help me understand people with disabilities."

Before the games began, athlete Michael Camacho from Orange/Ulster County Boards of Cooperative Educational Service received the annual memorial Capt. Andrew Houghton (Class of 2001) award from Bryce Gama, a high school friend of Houghton and friend of the Family. The award is presented to the best athlete who exemplifies "Let me be brave in the attempt," in honor of the son of George and Cindy Houghton, who died from wounds sustained in Iraq, July 10, 2004.

Carl Caldwell, Tom Spear, Mark Kurtz and Robert Nack carried the torch to light the Olympic flame.

The Omicron Delta Kappa, West Point's honor society, sponsors the annual games with competitions at Shea Stadium, Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center and the North Athletic Field.