Memories made at Kadena Special Olympics
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa - Marines and service members from other branches and their families deepened relations with community members by volunteering at the 14th annual Kadena Special Olympics Nov. 2 at Kadena Air Base.
Since its inception in 2000, the KSO has broken down barriers and created an environment of understanding and acceptance for the members of the community with physical and mental disabilities, according to Brig. Gen. James B. Hecker, the commanding general of the 18th Wing.
The opening ceremony featured a torch run to light the Olympic monument, opening remarks from military service members and local government officials, and music performed by the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band.
“The Kadena Special Olympics provides an opportunity for the participating athletes and artists to display their talents and to meet and interact with many people through sports and art activities,” said Hirokazu Nakaima, the governor of Okinawa prefecture.
The events the athletes participated in included the 30-meter and 200-meter dashes, softball throws, floor hockey, ground golf and more. Artists also displayed their artwork at the event.
“Growing up in the military, I’ve always done volunteer work,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Sonya R. Rood, an event volunteer and nondestructive inspection craftsman with the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, 18th Maintenance Group. “Being at this event is satisfying when you see how happy the athletes are.”
Service members served in multiple roles to support event participants.
“Today, I am going to be a ‘hugger,’ escorting my athlete to different events to cheer him on and support him,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Alan R. Stowers, an event volunteer and military policeman with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF. “I think it’s important to give back to the community and help benefit someone else’s life. I am really excited to see what my athlete accomplishes.”
Huggers made sure their athletes and artists were fed, supervised, and cared for between events.
“I am really happy to be here, it’s fun,” said Ikeshiro Satoshi, a participating athlete from Okinawa City.
During the KSO, participants and volunteers made lasting memories and relationships.
“The connection between the Okinawa and American communities to support the local games is unprecedented,” said Hecker. “This event proves to become a very special day for everyone involved, through which memories of heartfelt kindness, compassion and friendship will be forged.”